In April of last year, four oil rig workers were killed in a helicopter crash off the North coast of Scotland when their Super Puma AS332 L2 plunged into the sea while approaching Sumburgh airport. The workers, three men and one woman, were among the 18 passengers and crew returning to the Shetland airport form an offshore rig. It was not the first time that an aircraft crashed near Sumburgh (in 1986 45 people were killed in a helicopter crash here) and certainly not an unusual occurrence in the industry. Sadly, helicopter accidents have become almost routine occurrences in the offshore business. In a two week span in 2009 alone, more than 40 crew members and rig workers were killed in three unrelated accidents in Canada, Newfoundland, and the North Sea.
As a result, confidence among those relying on helicopters as there means of transportation from and to offshore facilities are at an all-time low. In their June issue, the industry publication Oil & Gas UK published the findings of a survey among workers that indicated a considerable loss of confidence in helicopters as a safe mode of transportation.
Last year’s accident reminded the public of the risks associated with offshore drilling and caused production companies to reassess their internal health and safety practices. While the European Commission has already enacted comprehensive legislative measures to ensure that offshore installations in EU waters feature the highest safety standards in the world, it seems unavoidable to also tighten safety regulations for helicopter operation, especially as production sites are moving into more remote locations.
A logical starting point for a more integrated preventative safety strategy could be Norway’s established safety regime, which by many experts is believed to be the most effective in the industry. The world’s largest offshore oil producer and second largest offshore natural gas producer has in place an integrated national legal framework for regulating health, safety and environmental issues in the conduct of offshore oil and gas operations that includes transportation, structural design, as well as the promotion of a positive safety culture.
Improving offshore HS (OHS) is, of course, an ongoing topic not only for offshore sites but for the entire energy industry. Especially as recent developments such as in situ disintegration, digital oilfields, ceramic proppant particle fracturing and other novel technologies have revolutionized industry workflows, established safety strategies also need to be reevaluated. For only a company whose workforce understands and implements those new measures effectively will be able to capitalize on their promise.
As your company addresses the challenges of a changing industry we can help you develop and implement a global offshore HS strategy. As a specialized language service provider for the oil and gas industry, EVS Translations focuses on the translation of occupational safety instructions, health and safety manuals, brochures and training manuals..