We previously reported on the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) review into offshore helicopter safety, CAP 1145.  MPs have now called for a public inquiry, following the publication of a further report into the matter, by the Transport Select Committee (the “Committee”).

The report by the Committee stated that there were two areas of concern.  The first area is said to be the impact of commercial pressure on helicopter safety, and secondly, the role and effectiveness of the CAA. The report considers that the CAA’s recent review had failed to look at the impact of commercial pressures on helicopter safety.  Committee Chairwoman Louise Ellman stated that “despite work by the CAA, serious questions remain unanswered about offshore helicopter safety in the competitive commercial environment of the North Sea”.

The Committee stated that it welcomed the work by operators, manufacturers and industry safety groups to engage with the offshore work force to address its concerns about Super Pumas, the helicopters which were involved in recent accidents.  However, the Committee raised concerns regarding alleged “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”.

Oil and Gas UK have responded to the Committee report, stating “we have yet to see any evidence of the unsubstantiated allegations concerning improper commercial pressure affecting safety outcomes which are repeated in this report. It is vital that everyone plays their part in keeping the workforce safe and if anyone has evidence of commercial issues overriding good safety practices, they must report this immediately. There are many ways to do this – safety representatives, Trade Unions, the Inter Union Offshore Oil Committee (IUOOC), Step Change in Safety, the Helicopter Safety Steering Group, the new CAA forum – Offshore Helicopter Safety Advisory Group (OHSAG) or indeed direct to Oil & Gas UK or the CAA.”

The CAA has also responded to the Committee’s criticism, stating that safety improvements in the industry are seen as a priority. In CAP1145, the CAA announced over 70 actions and recommendations to improve offshore helicopter safety. Such proposals were widely welcomed by unions and helicopter operators in the industry.

The Department for Transport has stated that they are working closely with the CAA and will respond formally to the Committee’s report in due course.

Click here for a full copy of the report.