Implementation team expects to wrap up work by September
Since January, a 15-person team has been busy finding ways to implement the recommendations of the Wells Inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.
Members of the implementation team include representatives of offshore workers, oil companies, aviation and safety experts and Cougar Helicopters.
They expect to wrap up their work by September, and then it will be up to the offshore regulator to turn their action plans into reality.
Stan Hussey, an offshore worker on the Terra Nova production ship, expects more worker participation in safety issues after the team’s work is done.
He’s already seen a difference.
“This new approach that we’ve all been part of has really demonstrated the value of worker inclusion in decision-making,” he said.
“I’ve been hearing that people are not necessarily overly excited about it because they don’t think anything’s going to get done — and I’m here to say these will all be resolved.”
Hussey is chief shop steward for the Communications Energy and Paperworkers union at Terra Nova.
The Wells Inquiry was appointed by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).
Its mandate is to improve offshore helicopter safety following the March 12, 2009, crash that claimed the lives of 17 people.
Inquiry commissioner Robert Wells issued 29 recommendations, including a dedicated search and rescue helicopter for the offshore, faster search and rescue response times, and greater worker participation in decisions affecting their own safety.
Wells is scheduled to deliver his final report by the end of this month.
New safety committee
Hussey said a new group — the helicopter operations safety committee — has been created to provide additional oversight of helicopter transportation.
“This committee is modelled after the team approach that we have been using over the past several months.”
It will include a worker from each offshore installation, along with representatives from Cougar Helicopters, the oil companies and the CNLOPB.
Its first meeting is tentatively scheduled for later this summer.
One goal of the committee will be to ensure all the Wells Inquiry recommendations are implemented.
Hussey also envisions the committee as a permanent offshore fixture.
“Right now, it’s mostly to do with helicopter safety, but within the next couple of years, hopefully, we’ll resolve those issues and it will be able to easily move into general safety issues.”
Helmets for pilots
Another Wells Inquiry recommendation is mandatory helmets for all pilot’s flying offshore.
Daniel Bourgeois, a reservoir engineer with the CNLOPB, said it was the first recommendation the implementation team studied — believing it would be straight-forward and easily done.
But, he, said the issue of potential neck injuries among pilots regularly wearing a three-pound helmet was raised by a team member who is a senior pilot with Cougar.
The issue has been further studied, and Bourgeois said the team will meet in July to come up with an action plan.