The published at 00.01 am on Tuesday 8 July 2014. In its conclusions the committee say:
Helicopter transfer across the North Sea has inherent risks but remains the most practical mode of transport for the offshore oil and gas industry.
Five accidents since 2009 have led to a loss of confidence from the offshore work force in helicopter transport that will be difficult to remedy. Industry safety groups and operators have worked to rebuild confidence but more needs to be done.
We were disheartened to learn of instances that reflect a “macho bullying culture” in the industry and wish to be reassured that the flawed EBS [Emergency Breathing Systems] safety briefing in not indicative of complacency toward safety.
Oil and Gas UK‘s aviation seminar this year specifically looked at rebuilding confidence. The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) had previously made recommendations on improving the passenger briefing after August 2013 accident off Sumburgh (on 10 April 2014, six survivors from that accident met with Members of the Transport Committee [see Appendix A]). The introduction of new Category A Emergency Breathing Systems , as well as introducing enhanced capacity, will also give the entire workforce a refresher in EBS use.
The committee dismissed any concerns with the Super Puma family (which make up some 60% of the UK offshore helicopter fleet).
In relation to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Review, which resulted in the CAP1145 report, the committee highlight:
….areas of the review that we think require additional work, particularly concerning occurrence reporting, the standardisation of customer requirements and the implementation of seating restrictions. The CAA now needs the co-operation of the oil and gas industry, helicopter operators and EASA to ensure its recommendations are carried through to conclusion. We have called on the DfT to use its influence to ensure EASA has prioritised that important work.
There is some slightly unfair criticism of EASA, especially as a considerable number of the recommendations and actions in CAP1145 are based on the work of EASA‘s existing helicopter ditching Rule Making Task RMT.0120 working group and EASA’s Management Board is actually chaired by CAA’s Director Of European And International Strategy.
They also comment that the AAIB should keep survivors better informed on the progress of investigations in future.
The committee go on to say, heavily influenced by evidence from union BALPA its seems:
The CAA review did not look in sufficient detail at two key areas of offshore helicopter operations.
The first was the offshore industry’s highly competitive environment. Commercial sensitivities ensure that it is difficult for external reviews to examine the contractual obligations set by industry.
The second was the role and effectiveness of the CAA itself. Those who work in the hazardous conditions of the North Sea deserve to know those issues have been properly evaluated.
We believe only a full, independent public inquiry would have the resources, remit and power to do this.
A flaw in CAP1145, based on a study that CAA have recently publically admitted at two industry seminars was rushed (one might assume in order to be complete before the Transport Committee reported), was always its lack of self reflection on the CAA‘s own performance, organisation and resources.
The BBC report that a DfT spokesman said:
It is vital that offshore workers are able to operate in a safe environment. We are working closely with the CAA, as the independent regulator, on this critical issue.
However on 10 July 2014 Transport Minister Stephen Hammond refused to commit to a public inquiry, saying the Government was “carefully considering ” its response:
I would say at this stage, in terms of a full public inquiry, the CAA has conducted a thorough review, it has made important recommendations. We need to give … organisations time to take those forward … and we are making sure those address the concerns of the industry.
The Government’s, CAA’s and Oil and Gas UK’s full responses were published on 27 November 2014.
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