Implementation timescales for brand new offshore helicopter safety rules have already been revised by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, just three months after they were first announced. The helicopter safety rules announced jointly by the UK CAA and Norwegian CAA on 20th February 2014 included a rule to allow passengers to fly only when seated directly next to an emergency escape window, in effect cutting the seating capacity on all offshore helicopter flights.
It was thought by most within the industry that this would badly hamper the movement of manpower and have a detrimental effect on the majority of offshore platforms awaiting vital maintenance campaigns during the summer months.
Safety critical maintenance hampered
The rule was due to come into place on 1st June this year, as the major summer maintenance campaigns to carry out safety critical maintenance works begin and far too quickly for the offshore industry to implement any changes to current safety equipment that would of allowed the current complement of manpower to mobilise.
All sides including the UK CAA and the offshore energy industry body Oil and Gas UK have come to agreement whereby the window rule will be postponed by three months to come in to effect on the 1st September. As part of the deal, improvements to the emergency breathing system, which will remove the need for seating restrictions, are to be brought forward by 15 months from 1st April 2016 to 1st January 2015.
Oil and Gas UK have stated that the first of the improved breathing systems won’t come into service earlier than mid July.
Head of flight operations Rob Bishton said: “The safety of those who work offshore is our absolute priority and as such we must also consider their safety on offshore installations as well as onboard flights”
“We are also giving the industry an extra three months before the temporary seating restrictions are applied, so that they can complete planned, safety-critical maintenance work offshore over the summer.”
Malcolm Webb, chief executive of industry body Oil and Gas UK, said: “The CAA consultation with industry has been highly constructive, prompting and accelerating the introduction of breakthrough lifesaving equipment – a real milestone for safety in the North Sea.”Last updated on 06:03AM - 03/06/14