Unite, the UK offshore industry’s biggest trade union, has accused the UK government of turning a ‘blind eye’ to 20 fatalities in five years after it rejected recommendations by the transport select committee for a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.
Unite has been a long-standing campaigner over the safety of the Super Puma-type helicopters after five North Sea emergency ditchings since 2009, with 20 deaths as a result of two fatal accidents in April 2009 and August 2013. Over 3,000 workers supported the union’s Back Home Safe campaign which detailed a crisis in confidence over helicopter safety.
However, following publication by the transport select committee this morning (Monday 27 October), the UK government argued it had not found ‘any evidence to suggest that safety is being compromised as a result of commercial pressure from the industry’ and incredibly claimed that there is ‘no evidence to suggest that UK operations are any less safe than operations conducted by other states, particularly Norway.’
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “This morning’s published response from the UK government is, ‘there is nothing to see here, there’s no safety issues and its business as usual for helicopter transfers in the North Sea’, which given the recent history is absolutely scandalous.
“The government states UK operations are as safe as our Norwegian counterparts who have not had one fatality as a result of helicopter transfers since 1997, yet the UK has suffered 38 deaths in the same timeframe, with 20 in the last five years alone – if that doesn’t suggest a safety problem then I don’t know what does.
“A full public inquiry would allow a much needed, forensic analysis of why we repeatedly encounter these problems with helicopter transfers serving the UK continental shelf and go some way to re-building the shattered confidence of the workforce.
“Instead the UK government has washed its hands of the problem by rejecting the recommendations of the Transport select committee and it has turned its back on the 3,000 workers who supported our Back Home Safe campaign for safer helicopter transfers.
“Our fight for a safer offshore industry will continue unabated – we’re simply not prepared to see the lives of working people compromised, even if the UK government is.”
For further information please contact Peter Welsh, Unite Scotland Communications, on 07810157931.
Notes to Editors: Download a copy of the transport committee Sixth Special Report – Offshore Helicopter Safety