One unrelenting quest for enhancing safety results in a step change for the industry

Madrid / 17 November 2021

Four years ago, when Lee Harris joined Siemens Gamesa as an Aviation Specialist, he noticed there was significant variation across the industry in the approach to aviation and a complete lack of guidance for offshore wind. He saw that there was potential to enhance safety and efficiency by gathering the established recommended practices related to offshore helicopter operations as well as an opportunity to develop guidance where it was needed. With more than two decades of experience as a helicopter pilot, instructor, and simulator instructor, during which time he was also an active member of and regular speaker within many industry bodies, it is fair to say Lee is passionate about aviation and safety. Lee is married to Bertha, who is a pilot and safety officer herself - clearly it’s a family vocation.
Communication Specialist
A working group is born
Lee ensured that Siemens Gamesa became a member of HeliOffshore, a global, safety-focused association for the offshore helicopter industry, and worked with HeliOffshore to create a Wind Farm workgroup. He rallied together key stakeholders to create a working group that included aircraft manufacturers, aircraft operators, customers, and industry groups. He then worked with HeliOffshore to develop the industry’s first global Offshore Wind Farm helicopter operations Recommended Practices (WinReP). Backed by European regulators, these recommended practices provide greater clarity on safe helicopter operations in support of offshore wind power projects.
“We use helicopters to transport people and materials, taking them from the shore or from vessels, to platforms or directly onto the nacelle of the wind turbine. We also use them for rescue and medical evacuation. The speed, flexibility, efficiency, low carbon footprint, and safety of aviation makes it an ideal method of transport. Although aviation is a highly regulated industry, there were some gaps in specific areas. Having flown many different types of helicopters in various regions, particularly in the hostile offshore environment, I realized that universal guidelines for the offshore wind industry would bring great benefits in terms of safety and efficiency”, explains Lee.
“In the highly regulated world of aviation it is a challenge to create guidance that can be implemented globally. People are often surprised, but regulations differ significantly around the globe. Guidance needs to incorporate knowledge that has been gained through experience and must be supported by the aircraft manufacturers. Equally important is that the guidance reflects the needs of the end-user and is accepted by Regulators. I went to the industry and secured commitment from the major operators of helicopters in offshore wind, aircraft manufacturers, end-users, and finally, I approached the European Regulators. Then, in 2018, I was elected Chairman of HeliOffshore’s wind farm Working group.
“Two years later, after many meetings and breakout groups, we created the industry recommended practices for using helicopters in support of offshore wind operations. Getting all stake holders - operators and different manufacturers - to align on some topics that were fundamentally challenging to their business cases was far from easy. From the outset we committed to tackling the challenging topics that had previously been avoided by the industry. There were many long hours, but we pulled it off!” adds Lee. He goes on to say, “It’s really a reflection of this industry's unwavering focus on safety and continuous improvement, and it’s a credit to all those involved throughout the process that we have developed this guidance. I personally thank everyone involved.”
Offshore wind’s first-ever guidance backed by regulators
Next, Lee set out to get regulatory review. Reminiscing about that experience, he adds, “I went to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) headquarters in Cologne, Germany, and presented our work. We received significant support and secured their agreement to promote our work. This resulted in the first-ever industry guidance for offshore wind backed by the European regulators”. It doesn’t end there though. Lee was nominated by HeliOffshore as the liaison with between HeliOffshore and G+, the wind sector’s global health and safety organization, to collaborate on the referencing of HeliOffshore’s Wind Farm Recommended Practices in its own guidelines. “The goal was to ensure that our work aligned and avoided contradiction or overlap.”
Launched in March 2021, HeliOffshore’s WinReP is the offshore wind industry’s first regulatory-backed guidance. A compilation of recognized recommended practices from aircraft operators, industry groups, regulatory agencies, educational organizations and individual experts in this field. It is not intended to replace official or regulatory guidance material, but is a supplementary document to enhance and clarify recommended practices for those developing or supporting wind farm operations.
While the scope covers global helicopters operations, it leans heavily on EASA and the European experience, which is valuable given that offshore wind emerged in this region. Considerable experience has been gained in wind projects in the North Sea, where helicopters have served in extreme offshore environments to support a diverse range of tasks, from the transfer and heli-hoisting of personnel and cargo to and from helidecks, to emergency medical aid, search and rescue, surveys, inspections, cleaning, monitoring, and maintenance support.
Inspired by Siemens Gamesa’s zero-harm culture
Safety goes beyond legal compliance and is woven into the fabric of all the processes across the value chain at Siemens Gamesa. We are a member of G+, the offshore wind industry health and safety association, and a member of HeliOffshore the global Safety focused Helicopter association. We continue to work with other members to provide a safe and secure environment through our commitment to develop and implement industry recommended practices.
“Safety is a prerequisite at our company, and for everything we do here. Siemens Gamesa’s zero-harm culture protects and promotes health and wellbeing for everyone - employees, suppliers, customers and our communities. WinReP is just one example of this culture, and one that we are mighty proud of,” concludes Lee.


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