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RMT leader says helicopter decision sends out ‘negative signal’

Union news
Offshore workers could be affected by the EU ruling

Mick Cash, general secretary of offshore union RMT, said the refusal to hold an inquiry sends out a “negative signal” to offshore workers.

Calls for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety after a series of crashes have been rejected by the Government.

The House of Commons Transport Committee recommended a “full and independent“ inquiry earlier this year.

It had looked into helicopter safety after four people died in a Super Puma crash near Sumburgh airport in Shetland in August last year.

It was the fifth helicopter accident involving the transfer of oil and gas industry personnel in the North Sea since 2009.

The Government has now responded to the report and said it “does not support“ the call for a public inquiry.

“RMT is appalled that the Government have point blank refused to hold the full independent and public inquiry into helicopter safety that has been an absolute core demand from the workforce that we represent,” Mr Cash said.

“An inquiry would have gone some way toward dispelling existing concerns which continue to undermine workforce confidence.

“The failure to agree to a public inquiry leads to the obvious question, “just what have you got to hide?“ This response from the Government to the Transport Committee represents a complete failure to get to grips with the safety issue in the offshore industry and will send out a wholly negative signal.

“RMT will continue to fight for a public inquiry and will continue to support the families of those who have lost loved-ones in our industry. The fight for the safety of offshore workers goes on.”

The transport committee said it had been told by some in the industry that offshore workers who raise concerns about helicopter safety have been told they should leave the oil and gas industry and that there was a “macho bullying culture”.

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said: “The Committee has taken a report of a single, three word quote taken out of context to substantiate a wholly unfounded finding that there is a “macho bullying culture“ in the industry.

“The fact that the quote was made is hugely regrettable but it is in no way reflective of the industry position regarding safety. A better and more representative example of the industry’s attitude to safety and aviation safety in particular, would have been to note that when concerns about the gear shafts arose following a EC225 aircraft ditching in May 2012 the industry, helicopter and oil company operators plus contractors and trade unions acting together, took the unprecedented step to call a “time out for safety“ and voluntarily grounded all the relevant aircraft at considerable cost and operational disruption whilst checks were undertaken.”

Mr Webb added that he did not support the calls for a public inquiry describing it as a “distraction” for the work of implementing the CAA’s recommendations.

A further call in the transport committee’s report for the CAA to conduct a joint review with the Norwegian offshore industry into safety, has been agreed to along with a series of meetings with helicopter crash survivors to learn from their experiences.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, said: “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.”

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