Union boss slams ‘unacceptable’ pressure on workers following helicopter report

Wednesday 12th November 2014, Aberdeen, Scotland. Step Change in Safety stock photography. (Photo: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media)
Jake Molloy of the RMT Union

A union boss has criticised “unacceptable” pressure on workers in response to a report into a safety incident on a North Sea helicopter.

Yesterday air accident investigators published findings into an incident last year where the landing gear of a CHC-operated H175 collapsed on its approach to Aberdeen.

A contributing factor was “fatigue” of a supervising maintenance engineer who had just two days’ rest in a 31-day period.

Measures have since been taken by CHC and Airbus to improve maintenance and fatigue prevention procedures.

Jake Molloy of RMT said the incident illustrated the need for a public inquiry into whether commercial pressures were impacting helicopter safety.

Trade unions have been calling for an inquiry following a spate of fatal incidents involving super puma helicopters in the North Sea, which are no longer in operation.

He said: “31 days, especially in a major accident hazard environment like helicopter operations, is unacceptable.

“It is great that activity levels are picking up but we shouldn’t be putting workers in this type of position where they are doing excessive hours.

“This is the situation that we’re in. Not just with helicopter operators but the entire supply chain.

“The pressure which is being put on the supply chain in every aspect, whether it be well services, maintenance offshore, or as we’ve seen here helicopter operations, the pressure on the supply chain is such that we’re seeing this kind of scenario becoming all too common.

“I could give you the names of three or four companies where the workforce are extremely worried about the excessive working patterns that are being brought as a consequences of the cuts and additional work.”

No one was hurt in the incident in July last year and Mr Molloy said the workforce should take comfort in the fact that the issues have been addressed.

However he added that there could have been dire consequences.

He said: “This is scary stuff, it really is.

“If it wasn’t for the quick reaction of the pilots when the nose dipped and they heard a crunching noise, the consequences are unthinkable.

“The potential for the rotor shattering and all the consequences that brings about is staggering.

“Checks have been done so you would like to think that it can’t occur again. From that perspective you would hope that workers can draw a bit of confidence that they’re not going to see the nose collapse in the H175 when it comes to land.

“But unless the other elements are in place – the knowledge, skills, rest and experience in the type – unless these are addressed then their airworthiness directives and procedures put in place are worthless.

“That’s what workers will think because unless we deal with the concerns around commercial pressure, this issue is not going away.”

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