Offshore Helicopter Safety

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Circular No: NP/0123/14

TO ALL BRANCHES, REGIONAL ORGANISERS, REGIONAL COUNCILS, & COUNCIL OF EXECUTIVES.

Our ref: S2/4

8th July 2014

Dear Colleagues

Offshore helicopter safety

We can report a very positive development in support of RMT’s campaign to improve the safety of helicopter transport in the offshore oil and gas industry. MPs on the cross-party Parliamentary Transport Select Committee today called for a full and independent public inquiry into the impact on offshore helicopter safety from the commercial pressure applied in the sector by oil and gas companies.

The full recommendations from the Committee’s report into Offshore Helicopter Safety are summarised here:
•    Independent public inquiry into ‘affects of commercial pressures on helicopter safety in the North Sea’.
•    Standardisation of contractual demands on helicopter operators from oil and gas companies.
•    Joint review between CAA and Norwegian offshore authorities to establish why more safety occurrences are reported in Norway but there are far fewer emergency (including fatal) incidents.
•    CAA should consult with offshore workers on standard of helicopter safety briefing material, especially on emergency breathing systems.
•    Air Accident investigators, CAA and oil and gas companies must improve work with crash survivors and victims’ families to learn lessons from crash incidents.
•    Helicopter companies must be more open and approachable to offshore workers who have concerns over helicopter safety.
•    CAA must address survivability issues from their review, especially on workers evacuating helicopters wearing emergency breathing apparatus.
•    DfT to demand that helicopter safety improvements are promptly adopted at European/EASA regulatory level.

RMT submitted evidence to the Committee calling for a public inquiry into the scandalously poor record of helicopter operations in the UK sector of the North Sea, as compared with the record of helicopters working in the Norwegian sector.  Only an open, transparent, public inquiry will address offshore workers’ legitimate concerns which have grown out of successive near misses and tragic incidents in the North Sea that neither operators nor the industry have learned from.

We will work, including through the RMT Parliamentary Groups in Edinburgh and Westminster, to ensure that the Government accept the Committee’s recommendations in full. The union also strongly welcomes the Committee’s focus on the threat to safety from oil and gas companies’ contractual demands on helicopter operators, as well as the call for an urgent joint CAA-Norwegian review of helicopter safety regimes which again chimes with RMT’s aim for adoption of Norwegian standards in helicopter training, inspection, maintenance and incident reporting.

The RMT will continue to campaign for continuous improvement in the safety of all aspects of the offshore industry and you will be kept informed of further developments, particularly the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s recommendations on offshore helicopter safety, expected by the end of this year.

The full report of the Transport Committee is attached and it would be appreciated if you could bring this circular to the attention of all members.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
Acting General Secretary