28 April 2021
RMT Press Office:
RMT marks Workers’ Memorial Day with remembrance of Norway helicopter disaster on eve of fifth anniversary
On Workers’ Memorial Day RMT remembers the fifth anniversary tomorrow of the helicopter disaster over Norway that cost thirteen offshore workers their lives.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, said:
“As part of this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, RMT remember the thirteen workers who died five years ago tomorrow, following the catastrophic gearbox failure of a H225 helicopter in the sky above Turøy, Norway.
“Although the investigation into this distressing incident was unable to establish the root cause, offshore workers, trade unions and oil companies have stopped Super Puma models from flying. Complex kit like helicopter gearboxes operate under extreme pressures. Recent incidents of gearbox problems during post-maintenance flights of H175s in the UK show that lessons are always being learned.
“We welcome the advances made in this technology over the last five years but the commercial pressure on offshore helicopter transport increases safety risks for offshore workers who have battled job cuts and an uncertain future to keep the lights on in our homes and hospitals during the pandemic. The appropriate tribute to the victims of Turøy would be a public inquiry into offshore helicopter transport to address offshore workers' core safety concern across the North Sea.”
- On 29th April 2016, the Norwegian sector of the offshore oil and gas industry experienced its first fatal helicopter accident this century when all thirteen crew and passengers lost their lives, including UK national Iain Stuart of Aberdeenshire. The helicopter involved was a H225 Super Puma.
- The Norwegian Accident Investigation Body published its final report into the Turøy helicopter crash in July 2018. https://www.aibn.no/Aviation/Published-reports/2018-04
- Norwegian, UK and European aviation regulators approved the Super Pumas for a return to service in the eighteen months after Turøy. Only the opposition of offshore workers and their trade unions in Norway and the UK, as well as the oil and gas companies, has prevented their return to service in the North Sea.
- In the North Sea since 2009, thirty-three offshore workers and crew have lost their lives as a result of helicopter accidents involving Super Puma helicopter models. Sixty-five workers and crew have been rescued in that time. In the UK sector, there have been five helicopter accidents, two fatal, since 2009 taking the lives of twenty passengers and crew. All these incidents involved the Super Puma models, H225 and AS332 L2.
- The last fatal incident in the UK sector off the coast of Sumburgh on 23 August 2013, took the lives of four offshore workers, including RMT member Sarah Darnley. This was the fifth offshore helicopter in four years. As a result, the cross-party Transport Select Committee launched an inquiry into Offshore Helicopter Transport. Its July 2014 report recommended that the UK Government "...convene a full, independent public inquiry to investigate commercial pressures on helicopter safety in the North Sea operating environment." https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmtran/289/28902.htm
- Last week, the Air Accident Investigation Branch in the UK published its report into a non-fatal incident in September 2020 involving an Airbus H175 from which a 'crunching sound' was heard from the gearbox during a post maintenance flight. Another incident of gearbox problems on a H175 was reported to the AAIB on 9 March 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/aaib-report-g-emeb-gearbox-failure-during-maintenance-ground-run-aberdeen-airport
- 28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day. The theme for 2021 is ‘Health and Safety is a Fundamental Workers’ Right.’ https://www.tuc.org.uk/what-iwmd