Helicopter Firms ‘Could Speed Up’ North Sea Safety Improvements
Published in Oil Industry News on Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Safety in the North Sea could be improved more quickly if helicopter firms volunteered to make changes, rather than waiting for regulators to take action, a new report says.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) made a number of safety recommendations in February 2014 following a series of accidents involving offshore helicopters.
They included a ban on flying offshore in extreme weather, ensuring passengers are able to escape from emergency exits and fitting new breathing systems.
But in a newly-published report, the CAA said safety improvements “could be introduced more quickly through […] operators voluntarily applying changes”.
The watchdog said the same result could be achieved by intervention from the European Aviation Safety Agency or through contracts imposed by the oil and gas industry itself.
The majority of safety improvements brought in since the 2014 report have been as a result of direct action by the CAA.
But it said work towards introducing six safety measures recommended in 2014 has stalled, including standardising emergency exit windows, mounting flotation devices on the sides of helicopters and employing self-righting life jackets.
While most of these improvements could reportedly be implemented in less than three years, the CAA said it was “unaware of any voluntary activity in this area apart from work on handholds and revised push-out window pull-tabs performed by Airbus Helicopters”.
There have been five serious offshore helicopter accidents in the UK over the last seven years, two of which were fatal.
Four people died when a Super Puma plunged into the North Sea near Shetland in August 2013 and 16 were killed in a similar 2009 crash off Peterhead.
The UK’s Super Puma fleet was recently grounded following an incident in Norway which claimed 13 lives, including that of Iain Stuart from Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire.
In 06 November 2013
Unite the Unions succesful helicopter back home safe campaign highlighted inmprovemenrts offshore workers backed thencampaign amnd moved decsion makers to implement improvements
Unite launches the Back Home Safe campaign for offshore workers
Offshore workers together with Unite, the country’s biggest union are launching the ‘Back Home Safe’ campaign on Wednesday 6 November (see notes to editors), which calls for immediate improvements to the safety of offshore flights.
Since August’s offshore tragedy, Unite has led an extensive consultation with offshore workers on the current safety of offshore flights. A survey of 532 workers found that over half, 50.7 per cent of workers are not confident about the safety of offshore helicopter flights. A further 81 per cent of workers said that their level of confidence in helicopter flights had decreased in the last 12 months.
Our consultation shows that the vast majority of offshore workers are calling for:
• increased investment to create a larger offshore fleet
• changes to the internal seat configuration on offshore helicopters
• changes to the design of helicopters used for passenger transfers offshore
• internal emergency lighting fitted to helicopters to aid evacuation
• immediate implementation of all safety recommendations from past offshore helicopter incidents
• independent review to improve contingencies in the event of a ditching (to maximise the survival time for workers)
• improved survival equipment and training for workers.
Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell said: “Offshore workers are launching a really important campaign to improve offshore safety and to save lives. Unite has spoken to hundreds of offshore workers who have clearly expressed their legitimate concerns but they have also made concrete proposals to improve safety.
“Over 1500 offshore workers have already backed a petition calling for action which will be presented to Oil and Gas UK next month. Overwhelmingly offshore workers are demanding action from the industry to improve the safety of offshore helicopter flights – Oil and Gas UK must now act.”
The campaign will be launched by Tommy Campbell Unite regional officer with Chris Gordon from Thompsons solicitors and Unite offshore representatives in attendance.
For more information or to attend the event contact Willie Thomson on 07810 157 910. Alternatively contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315.
Notes to editors:
The campaign launch will take place at:
Where: Unite Office 42-44 King Street Aberdeen AB24 2JT
When: Wednesday 6 November
Time: 10:30 – 11:30
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
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