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Suitable secondary roles for offshore medics

  • Operations notice: 55
  • Issue date: Mar 2002


1. This notice provides guidance on what constitutes suitable secondary roles for offshore medics and sets out principles that should be followed in determining the suitability of secondary roles.


2. The revised Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works (First Aid) Regulations 1989 (OFAR) Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) was published in December 2000. Appendix 2 of the ACOP contains new guidance on secondary roles for medics. Since its publication HSE has receIved enquiries from industry seeking further clarification about the suitability of certain secondary roles. This notice is to help dutyholders and others determine the issues that need to be taken into consideration when determining the suitability of any secondary role.

Primary roles and responsibilities of offshore medics

3. Appendix 2 of the OFAR ACOP provides detailed guidance on the primary role of medics, which are summarised below.

  1. Treatment of injury and illness including:
    1. on-site first aid;
    2. skilled treatment under the directions of a registered medical practitioner;
    3. the arrangement of evacuation of a patient and liaison with onshore medical services;
    4. treatment of divers under pressure Consultations over minor ailments.
  2. Giving assistance in implementing emergency plans.
  3. Giving advice on occupational health and on the provision of a healthy living and working environment.

Suitable secondary roles and responsibilities

4. Roles other than those stated above are considered secondary. Appendix 2 of the OFAR ACOP suggests that the following could be regarded as suitable because they could enhance a medic’s primary roles:

  1. Giving advice on assessments of needs required by OFAR
  2. Giving advice on health-based risk assessments under other regulations, such as those relating to hazardous substances, manual handling and noise.
  3. Undertaking routine health surveillance as required by COSHH.
  4. Monitoring food and water hygiene.
  5. Providing basic first aid training.
  6. Providing refresher training on the use of defibrillators to offshore first aiders.

Determining if a secondary role is suitable

5. To determine whether a secondary role is suitable, the following principles should be applied. Secondary roles:

  1. should be assessed on a case-by-case basis because a secondary role considered suitable on one installation might not be on another installation;
  2. should not disrupt the cover provided by the medic;
  3. must not conflict with or jeopardise the medic’s primary roles set out in Appendix 2 of the OFAR ACOP. While performing a secondary duty, the medic must always be immediately available to respond to emergencies;
  4. must not make it more difficult to contact or to locate the medic;
  5. should complement the medic’s primary role and not compromise this role; and
  6. should be given only after the medic has received appropriate training.

6. The following examples illustrate these principles.

  1. The use of a medic as a radio operator or as a helicopter landing officer may mean that in an emergency, the medic is expected to carry out two key roles simultaneously. The medic should only undertake such tasks if there is adequate provision for trained backup to promptly take over should a medical emergency arise.
  2. A medic may not be able to work as a steward because this could compromise the hygiene needs of a medic’s primary role.
  3. A medic working as a food handler could compromise the hygiene needs of both food handling and the medic’s primary roles.
  4. Any secondary duties may be physically demanding. Fatigue would compromise a medic’s ability to carry out their duties. Such roles are considered unsuitable.


7. The main references are:

Further information

8. Any queries relating to this notice should be addressed to:

Health and Safety Executive
Hazardous Installations Directorate
Offshore Division
Lord Cullen House
Fraser Place
Aberdeen AB25 3UB

This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive. Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice

Updated 2011-09-29