Offshore helicopter ops: the questions that need answering

Thanks to respondent HPRA (see previous entry), I have now read the Sintef report on oil and gas support helicopter operations the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The report was written in 2010 but also looks forward at where safety might go, and why. It was commissioned by the oil and gas companies.

Since that time, of course, the recent fatal Super Puma accident at Sumburgh has occurred, so bear that in mind as you read what this thoughtful report has to say on the relative performance of the UK and Norwegian sectors:

“It is striking that the UK sector had ten accidents while Norway only had one accident in the
period 1999-2009, with comparable amounts of person flight hours. All fatalities in the North
Sea during the period have also occurred in the UK sector.

“The statistics show a significantly  different development between the UK and Norwegian sectors from the previous period. The analysis has shown, however, that all accidents, in principal also could have occurred in  Norway. This indicates that our low accident rate in the period could be a random result; this is also supported by sensitivity analyses.

“The fact that the accidents could have occurred in the Norwegian sector does not necessarily
mean that the probability of these accidents was just as great in Norway. The probability of the
individual accidents could very well be considerably lower – or higher – than on the UK side;
such assessments are not covered by the analysis.

“On the other hand, you cannot ignore the fact that all of the UK accidents occurred there, in the
UK sector and not the Norwegian sector. It cannot be ruled out that the observed difference
between the Norwegian and UK sector is partly due to actual differences in how helicopter
operations are conducted.

“In Norway, questions can be asked whether large and important steps
towards increased safety have been made in recent years, while the progress in the UK has
stagnated, perhaps even gone backwards. The question is difficult to answer, and will require
thorough studies.”

It’s a British saying that “you make your own luck”. Lady Luck always plays her part. That’s why you have to woo her.

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