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Union sounds warning over new helicopter regulations

RMT'S Jake Molloy

A leading trade union official last night said that offshore workers have expressed concerns about the potential impact of new regulations.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT union, said staff have largely welcomed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recommendations, however.

He said: “The workforce has been complaining about safety issues for some time now, but most will support the approach that the CAA is taking.

“Any issues concerning offshore safety could be resolved rapidly by shutting down platforms, but the Health and Safety Executive has a role to play here.

“The meeting of the Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) later this month will be crucial as to how the workforce can be reassured as the industry enters its peak period.”

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said that the CAA should address any safety fears being expressed by workers.

He said: “The regulators themselves, the CAA, should also be subject to wider scrutiny, with regard to the recommendations they have made.

“There is an urgent need to address helicopter safety and a reasonable expectation that they talk to employers and their staff to deal with this.

“The HSSG has provided a genuine forum for safety concerns in the past and has a role to play in allaying workers’ fears.

“I would recommend that all parties involved start talks as quickly, and as thoroughly, as possible, as it is in the interests of everybody in the industry.”

Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran has been calling for a public inquiry into helicopter safety since four workers died off Shetland last August.

He said: “I think part of the problem with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report is that regulation over the past 30 to 40 years has been weak, and the CAA is now rushing to solve these problems.

“I don’t think you can do that. We need a comprehensive, independent inquiry.”

Oil and Gas UK’s health-and-safety director, Robert Paterson, said: “We are working with our members to assess the impact on safety of the CAA review.

“Like the CAA, our primary focus is to create and maintain a safe environment for our industry to operate in. If the specific areas addressed in the CAA report are implemented in the right way, they will further improve the safety of helicopter operations in the North Sea.

“We believe that the CAA’s proposed timescale does not take into account the full risk picture for offshore workers.

“We are working with our members and the offshore workforce as a matter of urgency to quantify the wider safety impact of the CAA review.”

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