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MSPs urged to help restore ‘shattered confidence’ in o...

MSPs urged to help restore ‘shattered confidence’ in offshore helicopter safety

26 February 2014

Unite will submit a petition signed by thousands of workers to the Scottish parliament tomorrow (Thursday 27 February) urging MSPs to help restore ‘shattered confidence’ in offshore helicopter safety.

This coincides with a Scottish parliamentary debate led by North-East MSP Richard Baker, in support of Unite’s ‘Back Home Safe’ campaign which calls for practical improvements to offshore helicopter design, survival contingencies and training and to implement all previous recommendations made by authorities to maximise worker safety.

Over 3,000 offshore workers have backed the campaign which was launched after four offshore workers died when their Super Puma AS 332-type helicopter returning from the Borgsten Dolphin platform ditched off the Shetland coast on 23 August – the fifth such incident since 2009 with a total of twenty fatalities.

There is growing recognition among industry stakeholders over the need for urgent intervention, reflected in last week’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report into last August’s crash which introduced new measures for flight safety and laid-out a series of recommendations for helicopter operators and the industry to better protect its workers.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The views of over 3,000 offshore workers cannot be ignored and their collective voice is loud and clear: They want safer helicopter transfers to and from installations in the UK Continental Shelf.

“Richard Baker’s debate is another pivotal moment as it gives MSPs the opportunity to act on the real concerns of the workforce and help in the massive challenge of restoring shattered confidence in offshore helicopter transfers.

“Unite and other offshore trade unions have put forward practical proposals for safety reform through the Back Home Safe campaign and in our support for a full independent inquiry into offshore helicopter safety, which Richard will also make the case for in the chamber tomorrow.

“Following on from the publication of the CAA’s own safety recommendations last week and the on-going work of the UK Transport Committee, there is now a widespread recognition of the clear problems facing UK offshore helicopter transfers and the need for urgent interventions.

“Five ditchings and 20 deaths since 2009 is an unacceptable failing of health and safety and collectively we have an obligation to ensure we tackle this serious problem, taking every step possible to help offshore workers get back home safe in the future.

“Tomorrow, the Scottish parliament has the opportunity to do just that.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:
The four demands of the Back Home Safe campaign are:
-    Safer emergency lighting and seating configuration in all offshore helicopters to aid evacuation;
-    Immediate implementation of all safety recommendations from past offshore helicopter incidents;
-    Independent review to improve contingencies in the event of a ditching (to maximise the survival time for workers); and
-    Improved survival equipment and training for workers.

Richard Baker’s Scottish parliamentary debate will start at 12:30pm and the Back Home Safe petition will be received in Room TG20/21 at 13:30pm.

For further information please contact Unite regional industrial officer Tommy Campbell who will be in attendance at the Scottish parliament on 07810 157 920 or Peter Welsh on 07810 157 931.

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•    Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.