Province wants suit standards reviewed

Steve Bartlett & Moira Baird
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Williams says safety suit standards could be outdated

The province wants a review of the standards governing helicopter safety suits.

Premier Danny Williams and Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale told reporters Thursday the criteria for the survival suits dates back to 1999 and that stakeholders from the Canadian General Standards Board have suggested those standards are deficient.

The politicians want to know for sure.

"If, in fact, there is a standard deficiency or a standard upgrade that is needed in order to produce a better suit, then we need to make sure that our people know what they are dealing with, that, in fact, if there is better equipment available, that they have it," Williams said.

Premier Danny Williams and Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale speak to reporters in St. John's Thursday. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The province wants a review of the standards governing helicopter safety suits.

Premier Danny Williams and Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale told reporters Thursday the criteria for the survival suits dates back to 1999 and that stakeholders from the Canadian General Standards Board have suggested those standards are deficient.

The politicians want to know for sure.

"If, in fact, there is a standard deficiency or a standard upgrade that is needed in order to produce a better suit, then we need to make sure that our people know what they are dealing with, that, in fact, if there is better equipment available, that they have it," Williams said.

The action was prompted by the tragic crash of a Cougar helicopter 55 kilometres east of St. John's last Thursday.

Seventeen people were killed in the tragedy, and Williams said the issue of suit standards was brought to the government's attention the following day.

The premier stressed the suits worn on Cougar Flight 491 were modern and one of the best available.

"(Our call for review) doesn't mean that it's a 1999 suit," he said. "That doesn't mean that the technology is 10 years old. What it does mean is that the standard is not up to spec in the sense that the standard is not a modern standard."

Williams added he has no evidence a particular suit has resulted in any loss of life.

Dunderdale's department has written the standards board - a federal organization that develops safety requirements - as well as the body regulating the province's offshore oil industry, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).

"It's extremely important that something positive come from (the helicopter tragedy)," Dunderdale said. "So we're being very vigilant. The safety of our people who work offshore is extremely important to us and when questions are raised, we're going to look for answers."

Williams hoped for a quick reply to the letters.

"It's a matter of importance because if, in fact, those suits have to be used again, then we need to know," he said.

'Best available'

The offshore oil and gas sector doesn't want anyone to get the impression that survival suits used today are unsafe.

"These are the best available suits out there," said Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

"Our industry believes that the suits that are currently in use - which were introduced in late 2007 - are the best available for this type of operating environment here on the East Coast."

But CAPP supports a review of the standards.

In fact, said Barnes, the first steps toward that goal were taken last month by the Canadian General Standards Board.

"They signalled to us about a month ago that they wished to have this standard reviewed, and we are encouraging that."

Will be involved

CAPP, which represents oil and gas producers, said it would take part.

"We expect it to start relatively soon," said Barnes.

"What we will provide is some financial assistance and also technical expertise from our member companies that would have some knowledge about survival suits."

He expects the review will take about a year to complete.

The CNLOPB planned to respond to the issue today.

Governments, regulators and other industries that use survival suits, such as the fishing sector, have also been invited to participate in the review.

All personnel travelling offshore are required to wear a survival suit approved by Transport Canada.

Williams also told reporters Thursday that in the future he wants the CNLOPB to do a broader review of all offshore safety regulations.

And, even though he suggested it might not have made a difference in the Cougar Flight 491 crash, the premier said there is still a need for a greater coast guard presence in the province.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: General Standards Board, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Transport Canada

Geographic location: St. John's, Atlantic Canada, East Coast

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Recent comments

  • Mistified
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I don't understand it. Danny has started to take measures to try and correct anything that they think may have gone faulty. But yet people complain because he is letting the public know what is going on. Would people rather he delay this process? I think it is great that the matter is taken so seriously and there is things being done to rectify anything that may be wrong.
    To the families, may they find comfort in the arms of friends and family and may they always cherish the memories they have. God Bless

  • Andrea
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Is there any level that Danny Williams wont lower himself too just to be the centre of attention? This man is sickening. My idea My idea all my idea. Thats Danny Willliams. The more things change the more they stay the same. Arrogant ego driven little dictator of a man. Remember Castro? He was also very popular. Can anyone see how similar these two are? Thankfully more and more are starting to see Danny Williams for the disgusting power hungry little man he really is.

  • Bones4
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Danny is simply lacking attention duringpast week. Like all petit dictators he can only stand it for so long. Then he must open his mouth and talk about something totally outside his jurisdiction. The safety of suits is a federal issue among others and certainly not for Nfld to call the standards. Perhaps this is a red herring to deflect from his own lackof action on health care, and other provincal concerns. Maybe he and (Dunderdale) should pay more attention to the problems in GrandFalls/windsor with the mill closing.

  • Baxter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Great example of talking for 15 minutes and saying nothing Danny. Sometimes its hard to tell if Ross Wiseman trained Danny or vise versa. They both have a way with words. Let the families grieve Danny then the spotlight will be all yours again.

  • Barry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Astonished::Heres a news flash. Its people like you who give yourself the name Stupid Newfies . You let Danny Williams talk act and think for you all the time. Your with us or agin us thats Dannys way. Just to remind you that was the way of George Bubba Bush as well. These families have been through enough allready without Williams grand standing to get attention. Give him a few more days and im quite sure Danny boy will have come up with a way to blame all this on Stephen Harper. Thats Dannys way. Must be your way too is it Astonished Newfie? The joke lives on.

  • Bones
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Those of you who would turn this into a political issue in order to bash Danny should be ashamed of yourselves.
    I sincerely hope that any of you who find yourselves depending on these suits to sustain or protect your life have nothing but success. I mean that.
    You Danny haters would actually use a topic like this? After an event that saw incredible loss of life? As a springboard to launch an anti-danny tirade?

    It's obvious some of you guys haven't the slightest idea that this is a safety/survivability issue and not a political one. It's these people that should be ashamed, and I'll say it again...I sincerely hope these suits fit and work, should one of your loved ones, or yourself need to depend on it to survive.

  • Shawn
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I can't believe you people! Danny is only looking out for the people who work offshore to make sure they are as safe as can be. Why are you turning this into something else?

  • Astonished
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Danny has done more for this province than any other Premier! Its people like you who give us the name 'Stupid Newfies'!!!

  • Randall
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    I think its more important to look at the S92 gearbox and recitify any problems with it, whether its a design flaw or faulty part or just a one time occurance, these things need to be looked at so another one doesn't go down. I hope Sigorski and TSB and FAA are doing this.

  • Beverly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Old man Williams looks just that old and haggered. He wasent able to be the centre of attention for the past week. Now hes back looking for the attention he craves.

  • Richard
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    I don't understand this piece, or why it's a news story. The article starts by saying the province wants safety suit standards reviewed, presumably by the Canadian General Standards Board.
    Then, near the end of the article, it contains the following quote: ...the first steps toward that goal were taken last month by the Canadian General Standards Board.
    In other words, the 'news' item is that the province (a.k.a. Danny Williams) called a press conference to say he wants something to happen that is already underway.
    It's about as newsworthy as the Premier saying on the first day of spring that he wishes spring would start, and then noting that it already had started.
    And people wonder why newspapers are dying...

  • laughing
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Congrats to Danny for voicing this concern.

    People are complainging cause he is voiceing his concerns about the suits and I bet that if he didnt say anything people would be complaining about that too. Is there ever any body out there that is happy anymore.

    This is a safety issue that needs to be addressed. Why didnt the signals on the suits go off??

    I have to agreewith Shawn from NL and Astonished from NL. Danny is a good premier he stands up for what he believes and what he thinks his fellow newfoundland and labradorians would what and most people of NL want this looked at.

  • Mistified
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I don't understand it. Danny has started to take measures to try and correct anything that they think may have gone faulty. But yet people complain because he is letting the public know what is going on. Would people rather he delay this process? I think it is great that the matter is taken so seriously and there is things being done to rectify anything that may be wrong.
    To the families, may they find comfort in the arms of friends and family and may they always cherish the memories they have. God Bless

  • Andrea
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Is there any level that Danny Williams wont lower himself too just to be the centre of attention? This man is sickening. My idea My idea all my idea. Thats Danny Willliams. The more things change the more they stay the same. Arrogant ego driven little dictator of a man. Remember Castro? He was also very popular. Can anyone see how similar these two are? Thankfully more and more are starting to see Danny Williams for the disgusting power hungry little man he really is.

  • Bones4
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Danny is simply lacking attention duringpast week. Like all petit dictators he can only stand it for so long. Then he must open his mouth and talk about something totally outside his jurisdiction. The safety of suits is a federal issue among others and certainly not for Nfld to call the standards. Perhaps this is a red herring to deflect from his own lackof action on health care, and other provincal concerns. Maybe he and (Dunderdale) should pay more attention to the problems in GrandFalls/windsor with the mill closing.

  • Baxter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Great example of talking for 15 minutes and saying nothing Danny. Sometimes its hard to tell if Ross Wiseman trained Danny or vise versa. They both have a way with words. Let the families grieve Danny then the spotlight will be all yours again.

  • Barry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Astonished::Heres a news flash. Its people like you who give yourself the name Stupid Newfies . You let Danny Williams talk act and think for you all the time. Your with us or agin us thats Dannys way. Just to remind you that was the way of George Bubba Bush as well. These families have been through enough allready without Williams grand standing to get attention. Give him a few more days and im quite sure Danny boy will have come up with a way to blame all this on Stephen Harper. Thats Dannys way. Must be your way too is it Astonished Newfie? The joke lives on.

  • Bones
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Those of you who would turn this into a political issue in order to bash Danny should be ashamed of yourselves.
    I sincerely hope that any of you who find yourselves depending on these suits to sustain or protect your life have nothing but success. I mean that.
    You Danny haters would actually use a topic like this? After an event that saw incredible loss of life? As a springboard to launch an anti-danny tirade?

    It's obvious some of you guys haven't the slightest idea that this is a safety/survivability issue and not a political one. It's these people that should be ashamed, and I'll say it again...I sincerely hope these suits fit and work, should one of your loved ones, or yourself need to depend on it to survive.

  • Shawn
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I can't believe you people! Danny is only looking out for the people who work offshore to make sure they are as safe as can be. Why are you turning this into something else?

  • Astonished
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Danny has done more for this province than any other Premier! Its people like you who give us the name 'Stupid Newfies'!!!

  • Randall
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    I think its more important to look at the S92 gearbox and recitify any problems with it, whether its a design flaw or faulty part or just a one time occurance, these things need to be looked at so another one doesn't go down. I hope Sigorski and TSB and FAA are doing this.

  • Beverly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Old man Williams looks just that old and haggered. He wasent able to be the centre of attention for the past week. Now hes back looking for the attention he craves.

  • Richard
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    I don't understand this piece, or why it's a news story. The article starts by saying the province wants safety suit standards reviewed, presumably by the Canadian General Standards Board.
    Then, near the end of the article, it contains the following quote: ...the first steps toward that goal were taken last month by the Canadian General Standards Board.
    In other words, the 'news' item is that the province (a.k.a. Danny Williams) called a press conference to say he wants something to happen that is already underway.
    It's about as newsworthy as the Premier saying on the first day of spring that he wishes spring would start, and then noting that it already had started.
    And people wonder why newspapers are dying...

  • laughing
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Congrats to Danny for voicing this concern.

    People are complainging cause he is voiceing his concerns about the suits and I bet that if he didnt say anything people would be complaining about that too. Is there ever any body out there that is happy anymore.

    This is a safety issue that needs to be addressed. Why didnt the signals on the suits go off??

    I have to agreewith Shawn from NL and Astonished from NL. Danny is a good premier he stands up for what he believes and what he thinks his fellow newfoundland and labradorians would what and most people of NL want this looked at.