AN INDUSTRIAL training company has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in its Tees Valley centre to ensure the safety of workers in the burgeoning offshore wind farm sector.

Danish-owned Falck Nutec is about to complete a major extension to its state-of-the-art facility in Billingham that will allow it to run courses simulating the potentially life-threatening situations faced by workers in the North Sea.

Following a £550,000 investment, the industry-leading centre boasts a 23.7 metre tall wind turbine tower, an external boat transfer simulator, rigging and workshops to deliver a range of realistic training courses.

The investment has strengthened the regions position as a one stop shop for the offshore renewables industry.

The Falck Nutec site is adjacent to TAG Energy Solutions' new 20m plant which makes foundations for offshore wind turbines. Nearby companies such as JDR Cables of Hartlepool, a world leader in producing turbine cables; the Tekmar Group, based in Newton Aycliffe, which produces cable protection devices, and installer VSMC of Darlington are among those helping to create a world class hub. Managing Director for Falck Nutec UK, Graham Gall said of the developments: "There is no doubt in my mind that Teesside is one of the most highly-skilled bases for manufacturing, petrochemicals and engineering in the whole of the United Kingdom and we are delighted to be able to offer additional training services here."

The Billingham site, which is the firms UK headquarters, was set up in 1993 to serve the regions offshore industry and trains about 3,000 workers every year. Three new staff recently joined its 30-strong team. A further 70 workers are employed at a similar site in Aberdeen. The centre manager, Bill Whyman, said: "Our new facility at Teesside will allow us to deliver a wider range of specialised industrial courses, it houses a purpose-built workshop area, complete with split level rigging frames and rigging loft. In addition the main hall provides ample space for practical industrial training courses in basic forklift, mobile elevated work platforms, scaffolding, confined space and working at heights. To be able to deliver a whole suite of industry accredited courses and bespoke courses either at our centre or at customer premises is highly beneficial to a number of our existing and prospective new clients."

Falck runs 26 safety training centres across five continents, which deliver courses in areas such as fire safety and emergency response.