The safety of those who travel on offshore helicopter flights is our key priority.
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.
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
- Improving knowledge and facilitating change
Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group (OHSLG)
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). This is now called the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group (OHSLG)
The purpose of the OHSLG is to oversee the efficacy of safety regulation and make appropriate recommendations to facilitate continuous improvement in the safety of offshore helicopter operations to that of comparable large commercial fixed wing operations.
1. To share, consolidate, evaluate and confirm the top industry risks identified individually by each helicopter operator
Note - It was agreed that a quarterly pre meet will be conducted prior to the wider OHSLG group meeting where the four helicopter operators will share and review their top risks by department ( Flight Ops , Ground Ops , Engineering). This in turn will be compared to the CAA’s risk picture and from that, the top 2-3 aligned risks will be confirmed
2. To work in collaboration with OGUK member companies to adopt and implement safety improvements related to offshore helicopter operations
Note – This will be a 2-way process of lobby and influence. This will be achieved through feedback from OGUK and the O&G representatives that sit on OHSLG
3. To work in partnership with Heli-offshore and maintain and establish links to other relevant bodies involved in offshore helicopter safety, driving consistency and the implementation of best practice for the UK sector
Note - Regular updates from HeliOffshore will be provided to the OHSLG along with updates regarding IOGP developments. These updates will be a standing agenda item
4. To identify, evaluate and prioritise offshore aviation safety risks and create a plan such that the relevant action group will ensure effective action is taken to mitigate and minimise each risk
Note: This differs subtly from objective 1 in that objective 1 focuses purely on the risks identified by the helicopter operators, whereas this objective covers all risks including those identified by the helicopter operators. The CAA’s SMS, that includes the Density Default Risk Matrix, will be used to document the total risk picture from which priority risks can be identified via a system of evaluation e.g. scoring. A risk evaluation meeting will take place in-between OHSLG meetings to review the outputs of this analysis and prepare a proposal for priority risks to take to the Group for review and approval.
5. To maintain broad awareness of all activities contributing to improvements in helicopter safety and ensure effective use of resources.
6. To maintain oversight of all work initiated by the OHSLG.
7. To display leadership and promote a strong culture of safety across the UKCS aviation sector.
8. To facilitate dialogue between helicopter operators, offshore energy industry representatives, worker representatives, the CAA and other stakeholders.
9. To ensure progress on offshore helicopter safety matters are effectively communicated and received by all offshore energy industry, passengers and community stakeholder groups
How success against these objectives will be measured:
Three high-level indicators of the success of the contribution of the OHSLG will be measured, reported and reviewed at each meeting
- Effective management and closure of the Group’s shared safety issues - managed through a simple tracker
- The extent to which the OHSLG has introduced an identifiable, and sustainable, comms medium that facilitates a bidirectional flow of information between all stakeholders (measured via pulse surveys)
- The extent of stakeholder awareness and understanding of previously communicated and subsequently delivered OHSLG safety communications, safety initiatives and enhancement To be measured via a simple awareness survey
Membership of OHSLG
The group will be tri-partite and have the following membership:
- Group Director Safety and Airspace CAA (supported by relevant CAA Heads of Department).
- The “accountable managers” of each of the helicopter operators
- [Three] senior oil and gas industry (client) representatives appointed by the Board of Oil and Gas UK
- The HSE Director a Oil & Gas UK
- A senior Trade Union Representative from each of BALPA, Unite and RMT.
- A Step Change in Safety Leadership representative appointed by the Step Change in Safety Leadership Team.
- A representative from Transport for Scotland
- A representative from The AAIB
The Group Director Safety and Airspace CAA will be a standing Co-Chair of the Group with the other Co-Chair position being taken by one of the Accountable Managers of the offshore helicopter operators, who will each hold the position for a period of 2 years in turn.
Meetings will be held every 3 months initially and then at such frequency as the Group deem appropriate.
Sub groups and other bodies
It is anticipated that where necessary, OHSLG will initiate necessary technical or change project delivery sub-groups, whether of a ‘task and finish’ or ‘continuing’ nature, and maintain linkages with other bodies such as the Aviation Safety and Technical Group (ASTG), HTC, The Helideck SG, IOGP Aviation Committee, Heli-Offshore, EASA, HSRMC, HSAC, HSE and others as required.
In the event of any future significant offshore helicopter incident which may have safety or reputational implications, the Accountable Manager will notify the co-chairs of OHSLG. If in their judgement an industry wide response is required, an emergency meeting will be convened at the earliest opportunity with a view to establishing a Task Group, which shall include the “Accountable Manager” of the affected helicopter operator, to:
- Co-ordinate the industry response and actions, including liaison with key stakeholders
- Establish consistent and regular communication to the wider industry and the workforce.
One of the member organisations will provide administrative support, and act as the Secretariat for the Group. The Communications Sub-Group will co-ordinate communications with the identified stakeholders
Achievements of the OHSAG/ OHSLG 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 www.caa.co.uk/cap1877
Offshore workforce communications – lead by Step Change in Safety
Visit Step Change in Safety 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 on board 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 Safety website.
CAA referenced documents
- CAP1145: Safety review of offshore public transport helicopter operations in support of oil and the exploitation of oil and gas
- www.caa.co.uk/cap1877 Offshore Helicopter Review Progress Report
- A message from the Chair of the CAA welcoming the report
- A letter from the review challenge team
- A letter from the European Aviation Safety Agency
- A letter from the Norwegian CAA
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:
- The Transport Select Committee’s Offshore helicopter safety report (July 2014)
- The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) Report No: 2/2014. Report on the accidents to Eurocopter EC225 LP Super Puma G-REDW, 34 nm east of Aberdeen, Scotland on 10 May 2012 and G-CHCN, 32 nm southwest of Sumburgh, Shetland Islands on 22 October 2012