After studying five helicopter accidents in the North Sea over four years the UK Parliament’s Transport Committee has called for a full pubic enquiry into whether commercial pressures are putting offshore workers at risk. It also criticised ‘regulatory inertia’ on the part of the European Aviation Safety Agency. EASA.
Says the Transport committee: “A full, independent, public inquiry must be convened to address whether commercial pressure from oil and gas companies affects the safety of offshore helicopter operations. This inquiry must also examine the role of the Civil Aviation Authority”.
On 23 August 2013, a helicopter crashed into the sea while on approach to Sumburgh Airport on Shetland. Four passengers were killed. This crash prompted the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to undertake a wide-ranging review into offshore helicopter safety which reported in February.
Louise Ellman chair of the Transport Committee says: “After five accidents since 2009, offshore workers’ confidence in helicopter safety is understandably low. Despite work by the CAA, serious questions remain unanswered about offshore helicopter safety in the competitive commercial environment of the North Sea. We fear a creeping complacency may be affecting safety standards. The role and effectiveness of the CAA has not been adequately examined. Only a full and independent public inquiry would have the power and authority to investigate properly.”
According to the report the committee it heard ‘troubling’ evidence about a macho bullying culture in the oil and gas industry, including that offshore workers who were concerned about helicopter safety were told that they should leave the industry. “We believe that more must be done to facilitate a culture of approachability and openness at all levels”.