Crucial fire safety expertise has been saved in the North East after South Shields Marine School stepped in to employ experts made redundant with the closure of a specialist training unit.
The Marine School plans to bring in-house the training for Merchant Navy and offshore oil and gas workers that it previously contracted to Impeller Assurance & Resilience, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s commercial partner.
In targeted expansion, the Marine School aims to exploit its new-found expertise to start delivering fire safety to land-based businesses around the region, work previously done by Impeller.
Established in 2015, Impeller provided fire compliance services and training - including first aid, leadership development programmes and fire risk assessments - to businesses across the region and beyond.
Its experts had worked with the Marine School’s Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre (MOST) to deliver fire safety training to people working in offshore industries.
Through MOST, the Marine School has taken on three Impeller staff full-time and will employ up to ten on a casual basis to provide instruction for its industry-leading safety programmes.
Michael Speers, Head of School at MOST, based by the River Tyne in Wapping Street, South Shields, said: “The steps we have taken have ensured the high-level expertise of Impeller’s staff remains available in the North East to people working on land or offshore environments and who require knowledge around fire safety.
“We were able to do this quickly and effectively, having already given serious thought to bringing in-house the fire and safety training we provide for the offshore oil and gas industries.
“This placed us in the optimum position to step in and expand our training portfolio by employing safety experts working for Impeller but who sadly had lost their jobs.
“As well as being great news for them, it provides us with a wonderful opportunity to expand our services into other commercial sectors.
“We will be looking to work with businesses around the North East, much as Impeller did, to ensure staff within them have the knowledge necessary to keep the workplace safe from any fire danger.”
In March 2016, MOST opened a new two-storey ‘enclosed spaces’ building where Merchant Navy trainees could learn how to avoid injury or loss of life in dangerous environments.
It contracted Impeller to provide instructors to teach techniques needed prior to entering an area which may have an oxygen deprived or toxic atmosphere and the risks to consider before a rescue or escape is attempted.
The centre was built in response to a significant number of accidents in the Merchant Navy being caused by a lack of awareness of the hazards of entering enclosed spaces on board ships.
The facility delivers courses approved by national awarding bodies to ensure all personnel entering enclosed or confined spaces can be trained to the highest standard.
MOST also delivers industry-leading survival training for Merchant Navy mariners and workers in the offshore oil and gas and renewable power industries.
It does so through a 4m-deep environmental pool, which has a variable wave pattern generator, and wind, rain, light and sound effects, a full-scale ladder to replicate windfarm access arrangements, and four-seater helicopter escape module.
MOST’s in-house developed programmes give instruction to around 4,500 people each year, including 1,200 in fire safety.
It is part of South Shields Marine School, a globally recognised centre of training for cadets entering the Merchant Navy and for experienced seafarers who require new skills or updated qualifications.
Impeller, a social enterprise whose profits were reinvested in local community fire safety projects via its charity, the Impeller Foundation, used fire service personnel to carry out its training.