Proposals for how the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) could take on the safety certification and approval of offshore helidecks, raising safety levels through a CAA-directed scheme that would have powers to stop flights to helidecks that fail to meet the minimum standards, were announced today as part of a consultation on the area.
The CAA’s review of offshore helicopter operations published in February 2014 highlighted that the CAA’s involvement in an enhanced certification process would raise safety levels for the 300 plus helidecks in UK waters.
In the consultation the CAA asks for views on how the existing system administered on behalf of the offshore helicopter operators could be transferred to a legally binding one and how the new system could be run with the minimum of bureaucracy, for example by work being undertaken by organisations accredited and overseen by the CAA.
CAA Safety and Airspace Director Mark Swan said: “The oil and gas industry puts considerable effort into maintaining safe helidecks but in cases where a helideck doesn’t meet safety standards there is currently no legal enforcement process to either shut it down or demand improvements. The safety of offshore workers is our absolute priority so we’ve launched a consultation that would see us introduce legally binding safety standards for the 300 plus helidecks in UK waters.”
The proposals are primarily aimed at addressing the causes of accidents to prevent them happening, a policy that the CAA and its Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG) has followed throughout its work in the area.
The consultation, which closes on 24th July 2015, is at www.caa.co.uk/consultations
The announcement is the latest move to improve offshore helicopter safety following the CAA’s comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations published in February 2014.
Other actions already introduced include:
• Stopping flights over the most extreme sea conditions.
• Ensuring every passenger on an offshore helicopter flight is equipped with new improved Emergency Breathing System (EBS) ahead of schedule.
• Standardisation of pilot training, particularly for the use of complex automated systems on helicopters and the associated operating procedures.
• Establishing a new top level group to drive change, the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG) that includes unions, industry and the CAA.
The majority of the remaining work is aimed at preventing an accident from occurring. Some of these, such as helicopter design, are longer term projects but the CAA and OHSAG will be maintaining pressure on the organisations responsible for change to ensure the safety improvements are delivered as soon as possible.
More information on the work of OHSAG and the CAA’s review is available at www.caa.co.uk/offshore
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