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U.K.’s CAA alters offshore safety timelines

May 8, 2014  By BBC

May 8, 2014, Shetland, Scotland - The timescales for implementing safety changes for offshore helicopter flights have been changed. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said only allowing passengers to fly if they are seated next to a push-out window exit was being delayed from June until September.

But an improved emergency breathing system will be compulsory from January next year rather than April 2016.

The CAA said it followed consultation with the industry.

Industry representatives have said that the emergency
breathing system devices will be available to "the bulk of" the offshore
oil and gas workforce by September.

For this reason, they believe the flight restrictions will not come into play as they will be unnecessary.


The CAA said it had received evidence that reducing
helicopter capacity through seating restrictions could have an adverse
impact on vital maintenance work due to take place at offshore
installations over the summer.

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

"We have listened carefully to the views of the industry, the unions and the helicopter operators.

"The changes to timescales we have announced today will mean
that helicopter flights will only be permitted after 1 January 2015 if
passengers are fitted with the improved emergency breathing equipment –
that's much earlier than originally planned.

"But 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

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."

The new timescales were also welcomed by Step Change in
Safety, a group dedicated to the safety of workers in the oil and gas

Les Linklater, Step Change in Safety team leader, said:
"Safety is the real winner in this for me and we have the right outcome
from an overall safety perspective.

He added: "As ever, our priority remains the safety of the
workforce. Today's changes will allow us to focus on improving safety

The new rules came out of a review of helicopter safety
prompted by the deaths of four people when a CHC-operated Super Puma
crashed into the sea off Shetland last August.

It was the fifth serious incident involving an offshore helicopter in the UK sector since 2009.


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