Update on offshore helicopter safety

Circular No: NP/0115/17




HO ref: S2/4 S2/6


20th July 2017


Dear Colleagues


Update on offshore helicopter safety

Further to circular no.0103/17 of 30th June 2017, I write to update you on recent developments regarding the ban on Super Puma model helicopters to transport North Sea oil and gas workers.

As stated previously, Norwegian investigators continue to try to establish the root cause of the fatal accident on the Norwegian coast on 29th April last year. Despite this, the Civil Aviation Authorities in Norway and UK announced earlier this month plans to lift their respective bans on Super Puma models. Trade unions in the UK were not consulted before this announcement was made, despite the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group which RMT and Unite sit on with the CAA. Neither were our brothers and sisters in Industri Energi given any prior notice by the Norwegian CAA.

As a result, the RMT and Unite agreed and issued the following statement, in collaboration with Industri Energi on 12th July:

We the Trade Union's (TU's) representing oil and gas workers continue to have significant concerns about the current situation around the operation of the H225 and 'Super Puma' type aircraft in the North Sea and the first of these is the way in which the regulators have gone about this announcement.  We've been told repeatedly the "Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group" (OHSLG) would be the forum through which all communications would be developed.  Even in the email on Friday morning 7th July calling for the 'extraordinary meeting' in Stavanger, the CAA talk about holding a; "summit on the 225 to update all parties".  However, the CAA then put out a press statement embargoed until 20.00 on that Friday night telling all parties what they've decided! What's the point of having a meeting to "update" anyone?  

This apparent rush to release a statement without engagement of OHSLG and the timing of the release also give cause for concern.  The only conclusion we can reach about the way this has been handled is that a commercial imperative exists and is taking precedence over appropriate engagement and consultation with the most important group in this situation, the offshore workforce.  We shouldn't have to remind the regulators and manufacturer, but the facts around "Super Puma" type aircraft are the most important issues to our constituents so we will; this aircraft type has been in the sea 6-times in little over 8-years; 65 people have been rescued from the sea; 33 people have been killed; and we still don't have a root cause for the Norwegian tragedy!  This is therefore a seriously important issue for our constituents.  

The timing of the CAA announcement is also being linked to the questionable 'survey' being run by Airbus. This survey has been widely criticised by workers, but the fact Airbus are refusing to allow independent assessment of the survey findings and to have these findings released publicly is only fuelling scepticism about the actions of Airbus.  This scepticism has been made all the worse since the CAA release on July 7th.  

As TU's, we fully support the principal of workforce engagement and we feel that Airbus and the regulators have fundamentally failed in this.  We (the TU's) therefore find ourselves at odds with both Airbus and the regulators.  As we see it, there is only one way to remedy this situation and that is a comprehensive and meaningful engagement exercise of offshore workers.  We will therefore be requesting that all North Sea oil companies commence a structured and consistent survey of workers about this aircraft type.  Until such an engagement exercise has been completed, the position of the TU's representing oil and gas workers will be that our members refuse to fly.  

Additionally, and as a consequence of the CAA actions, we will be renewing calls for the inquiry proposed after the UK Transport Select Committee's recommendations in 2014/15.  We will also convene an early Offshore Coordinating Group meeting to discuss the continued TU membership representation on the OHSLG, as clearly with such an impasse our participation is now questionable.

It is important to note that Super Puma flights have not resumed. Your union does not expect the Super Puma to return to service in the North Sea for the foreseeable future.

I would appreciate it if you could bring this circular to the attention of all Branch members and you will be kept updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash

General Secretary