Tandem Lifts through the V-Door

Tandem lifts through the V-door, such as picking up BHA (bottom hole assembly) or any other equipment requiring two lifting devices being utilized simultaneously, has been somewhat controversial in regards to what documentation and preparation are required within the drilling industry. Most times you will see this type of operation conducted without any second thought. It is generally considered a routine operation. Granted this is true, but does it make the task(s) any less hazardous? How does your organization view tandem lifts? Some organizations take this very seriously. They require a permit to work, as well as a thoroughly documented hazard assessment and an approved lift plan. Should this happen or is it just overkill?

Why is bringing BHA, tubulars, bell nipple, diverter housing, etc. through the v-door considered a tandem lift? On many of the floating rigs (semi-submersible, drillship), this is not an issue because you will have some form of a riser skate or transport device for bringing equipment to the rig floor. What about the jack-ups? Let’s look specifically at picking up BHA. On many conventional jack-up rigs, you would need to bring the BHA to the v-door with a crane. While still being suspended from the crane, you will connect either an air winch or the elevators. From this point, the Driller (if using elevators) and Crane Operator will work in tandem under the direction of a Banksman/Flagger to manipulate the load until it is completely suspended from the elevators. I have seen the inclusion of an air winch as well, which makes three devices simultaneously, while laying down BHA. What are the hazards here, and why is it a tandem lift? Think about it, you have a crane and the elevators attached to the same load, and it is simultaneously controlled by both lifting mechanisms. How is this different from attaching two different cranes to the same load on the main deck?

Maybe your organization recognizes this scenario as a tandem lift and maybe it does not because this is a “routine task.” I am not judging either way, but you should reconsider how you address this scenario if it is not considered a tandem lift. The next question, how are tandem lifts handled? This can vary considerably between organizations. Some systems will require large amounts of documentation, and some will not require any. What is the best way to approach this? When you consider the hazards of the task (two operators simultaneously lifting the same load while one leg of the lift is partially blind), do you think to yourself, “nothing could possibly go wrong here?” The proactive approach would be to ensure there is an approved lift plan in place for the operation to address communication, lifting equipment, roles/responsibilities, etc. You will have some who argue. They will say, “we have done it this way for 30 years and never had a problem. Why change now?” You be the judge! My response is always how many injuries and unplanned incidents did you have then that you don’t have now?

I hope to have shed a little light on a subject I feel is sometimes overlooked, in spite of the potential for serious consequences. I am not attempting to tell your organization how to conduct its business.  However, as safety professionals, I do believe we should show due diligence in addressing all known or potentially hazardous situations, even if nothing has changed in the last thirty years.