Response from Andrew Haines, Chief Executive,
Civil Aviation Authority |
Further to the publication of the report of Transport
Select Committee (TSC) into the Safety of Offshore Helicopters,
I am writing with an initial response from the CAA to those recommendations
that were addressed to us.
The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter
flights is our absolute priority and the steps we announced in
our February review will result in significant improvements in
safety, some of which will be implemented quickly. They include:
Prohibiting helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions
to improve the chances of rescue and survival; providing passengers
with better emergency breathing systems; modifications to helicopters
and survival equipment; and changes to the way pilots are trained.
Taken together, we are confident that these will represent a real
step forward in improving offshore helicopter safety and build
on the many years of progress to date.
Our review actions and recommendations are now being
progressed through the CAA's Offshore Helicopter Safety Action
Group (OHSAG) that features pilot and workforce representatives,
offshore operators and the offshore industry. Significant progress
has already been made. For example, the new emergency breathing
systems are a major improvement and are already being provided
to offshore workers.
In terms of the specific recommendations from the
Committee, we have reviewed these and offer the following response.
Recommendation 1. The CAA must ensure that helicopter
operators regularly review all safety briefing material to ensure
that it is up to date. In addition, the CAA must consult the offshore
work force to ensure that safety briefing material is easily understood
and fit for purpose. (Paragraph 16).
Helicopter operators are required to ensure that
passengers are given briefings and demonstrations relating to
safety in the event of an emergency. In offshore helicopter operations,
a pre-flight video briefing package has been used, combining input
from the helicopter operators (to meet their regulatory responsibility)
and industry (to cover their additional, non-mandated equipment
such as re-breathers and offshore protocols).
Now that we have mandated the wearing of passenger
Emergency Breathing System (EBS) or, alternatively, seating restrictions
to afford improved chances of successful escape,
our cabin safety staff are working with helicopter operators
and the oil and gas industry to ensure that pre-flight briefings
properly reflect the safety equipment and procedures in use.
Our flight operations inspectors regularly conduct inspections
of operator processes, including attending their pre-flight briefings
before flying on specific flights. As members of the oil and
gas industry's Step Change in Safety, Helicopter Safety Steering
Group (HSSG), we will continue to liaise closely with the representatives
of the workforce to ensure that any issues arising from the presentation
of safety information and helicopter briefings are identified
and acted upon. Further opportunities for issues to be raised
or examined are through the OHSAG where appropriate action and
tracking can be determined. Workforce union representation through
the RMT, Unite and BALPA are present at both groups.
Recommendation 2. The AAIB must keep crash survivors
informed on the progress of investigations. The CAA could learn
a great deal by meeting survivors and considering their experiences.
We have made an undertaking to meet survivors of
accidents to learn from their experiences and consider suggestions
for further improvements in safety and survivability.
Recommendation 4. At the same time, the CAA must
be mindful of the effect of its actions and recommendations on
the offshore work force and should consult with industry to ensure
its demands are realistic and implemented in a way which continues
to allow for "maximising economic recovery" as per the
Wood Review. We were extremely concerned to hear about how crash
survivors wearing safety equipment struggled to evacuate through
egress windows after helicopters capsized in the sea. The CAA
must set out how it will address that key issue as a matter [of]
urgency. (Paragraph 4).
Our new Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG)
features pilot and workforce representatives, offshore operators
and the offshore industry and will be the prime group to develop
the changes outlined in February. We also engage with the oil
and gas industry on a continuous basis through membership of the
Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) Aviation Safety Technical Group (ASTG),
and the Offshore Industry Advisory Committee (OIAC) Helicopter
Liaison Group (HLG) run by HSE under the Health & Safety Commission.
We support the oil and gas industry's Step Change initiative,
attending the HSSG and participating in ad-hoc working groups
In particular, we have been working with the Step
Change Passenger Size Working Group to develop a solution to the
issue of passenger/exit size compatibility (CAP 1145 Action A9).
This will be informed by the results of the ongoing Robert Gordon
University size and shape survey commissioned by OGUK.
Recommendation 6. The CAA must undertake a joint
review with its Norwegian counterparts to uncover why more occurrences
are reported in Norway, despite its smaller fleet, and publish
its findings within 12 months. (Paragraph 38).
We will conduct further work in this area focussing
on the reporting culture and identifying any differences. Findings
will be reported by 30 June 2015. Work has already been initiated
with UK industry to explore differences in the types of events
reported internally through company safety reporting systems
compared to those reported as occurrences to the CAA.
Recommendation 9. The CAA must use its chairmanship
of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group to lead the standardisation
of customer requirements for helicopter operators. This is as
an opportunity for the CAA to demonstrate its ability and willingness
to stand up and lead industry in reducing risk during helicopter
operations. (Paragraph 48).
We reported on this area in our February review,
stating that market-related issues lay outside the remit of
the regulator, but we recommended that helicopter operators "identify
a set of 'best practice' standard procedures and engage with
their customers to agree how these may be incorporated into contractual
requirements." (Recommendation 11). It was anticipated
that this work should be completed by Q112015. We also recognised
the burden that customer audits potentially have on helicopter
operators and recommended that the oil and gas industry "review
its audit and inspection practices to harmonise and pool audit
schemes to reduce the impact on helicopter operators following
the principles described in the Oil & Gas UK Guidelines for
the Management of Aviation Operations. (Recommendation 10).
It is expected that this work will be completed by 0112015.
In both areas, progress is being made. In the first
(contractual standards), the helicopter operators' own Joint Operators'
Review (JOR) has engaged with the oil and gas industry to identify
where differences need action. We are actively engaged with
this work -directly with the JOR and through the Offshore Helicopter
Safety Action Group (OHSAG). The issue has been accepted by the
UK and the wider global oil and gas industry, and was discussed
at the international Oil and Gas Producers' organisation's Aviation
Safety Committee on 07 August. The parties are addressing the
audit burden issue together through the same mechanisms.
We will appoint an independent expert to separately
monitor the safety-related aspects of this collaborative work.
If, in our opinion, adequate progress is not being made, we
will consider how improvements can be made using regulatory powers.
13 August 2014
2 CAA Safety Directive 2014/001 Offshore Helicopter