Offshore Helicopter Operations

A joint review to improve safety

Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG)

In September 2013 we initiated a review to examine the risks and hazards of offshore helicopter operations in the UK, which was conducted in conjunction with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority. A report of the review was published in February 2014 entitled CAP1145: Safety review of offshore public transport helicopter operations in support of oil and the exploitation of oil and gas. A progress report to this review was published on 28 January 2015 entitled CAP1243 - Offshore Helicopter Review Progress Report.

The review put forward 32 actions and 29 recommendations to helicopter operators, the oil and gas industry, manufacturers and EASA which will improve offshore helicopter safety around the following four main areas:

  • Passenger safety and survivability
  • Operations
  • Airworthiness 
  • Improving knowledge and facilitating change

An action from the review was to set up a CAA-led safety governance body for offshore operations, with representation from key organisations from across the industry, named the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG).

The primary purpose of the OHSAG is to:

  • Facilitate delivery of the CAA Offshore Helicopter Safety Review actions
  • To monitor the progress of recommendations made to others
  • Facilitate dialogue between helicopter operators, employee representatives, manufacturers and regulators
  • To coordinate and lead the communications of the review to stakeholders and media
  • To assess the ongoing effectiveness of implemented safety initiatives to ensure tangible measurable safety benefits are delivered

There is a strong collective commitment to deliver positive safety changes by all parties represented in the OHSAG.

Membership of OHSAG

Achievements of the OHSAG to date

The majority of the actions and recommendations outlined in the Review to improve safety focus on preventing accidents but some also focus on improving survivability following an incident. Safety improvements overseen by the group so far include:

  • Prohibiting helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions to improve the chances of rescue and survivability
  • Providing passengers with better emergency breathing equipment
  • Offshore workers have received improved safety training
  • Making sure that people only sit next to exits that they can escape from
  • Changes to the way pilots are trained · Improving helicopter design
  • Increased oversight of helideck safety

Latest progress against delivery of the Review can be found in CAP 1243

Offshore workforce communications – lead by Step Change in Safety

Visit www.stepchangeinsafety.net for workforce communications including a helpful dos and don’ts document around clothing policy and a downloadable FAQ sheet on passenger size. Online editions of the ‘Tea Shack News’ publication are also available to view online from the Step Change in Safety website.

Passenger shape and size

OHSAG is very conscious of workforce concerns over plans to prevent helicopter operators carrying passengers whose body size means they couldn’t escape through push-out window exits in an emergency.

The change is to ensure that everyone onboard can escape in the event of a helicopter capsizing after a ditching or water impact.

The Group’s aim is that no one loses their job as a result of the change. While the classifications may present some logistical challenges, we believe the implications for those who travel offshore are manageable within the current helicopter fleet.

Following a study of helicopter exits and of the offshore workforce a shoulder width measurement of 22” or over will be classified as ‘extra broad’ (XBR). Every offshore worker will be measured. Step Change has released details of how this measurement will take place. Workers whose shoulder width exceeds 22” will be classified as extra broad on the Vantage seat booking system. Those passengers will be allocated a seat which has direct access to the larger Type III and Type IV window exits. At least 30% of seats on all helicopters fall into this category which we believe is more than the number of passengers that will be classified as extra broad.

Information on Step Change’s Passenger Size workgroup is available at the Step Change in Safefy website.  

Other related bodies

  • Helicopter Management Liaison Committee (HMLC)
  • Helicopter Safety Research Management Committee (HSRMC)
  • Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG)
  • Aviation Safety Technical Group (ASTG)
  • Oil Industry Advisory Committee, Helideck Liaison Group (OIAC-HLG)
  • Joint Operators Review (JOR)
  • HeliOffshore – www.helioffshore.org 

CAA referenced documents

OHSAG terms of reference 

Minutes from previous OHSAG meetings 

Press releases

Other related reports

Since CAP1145: Safety review of offshore public transport helicopter operations in support of oil and the exploitation of oil and gas was published in February 2014, several further reports have followed, including: