Survey of Oil and Gas Workers Reveals Helicopter Safety Fears

A survey conducted by Unite the Union had 75% of respondents reply that they would never fly in an Airbus Super Puma helicopter amid safety concerns.

Source: Airbus

Unite the Union recently revealed the findings of a helicopter safety survey completed by 1,200 offshore oil and gas workers. The survey on North Sea helicopter safety follows a series of safety concerns involving helicopters transferring workers to and from offshore installations and platforms.

The poll asked several questions including the workers’ view on the potential reintroduction of the Super Puma model, with three quarters of respondents (75%) stating they would never fly in one again. The Super Puma was removed from the oil and gas sector in 2016 following a series of fatal crashes.

“Unite will never ever allow offshore health and safety to be compromised by operators and contractors,” Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said. “Absolutely central to this objective is ensuring the full confidence of offshore workers in the helicopters which they are transported in.”

“Overwhelmingly, offshore workers are telling Unite that more action and assurances are needed from the industry in order to improve the safety of helicopter flights. Operators and contractors must listen to these concerns and act.”

The oil and gas sector saw a fatal crash in February this year that killed one person and injured five others after a Sikorsky S-92, operated by Bristow for the Norwegian firm Equinor, ditched into the sea near Bergen.

The S-92 helicopter is the primary helicopter used across the UK and Norway, but it is facing a global spare parts crisis that has seen some helicopters grounded.

Offshore members in relation to the possible reintroduction of the Super Puma helicopter said the following:

  • 75% would never fly again in the Super Puma H225 helicopters.
  • 18% stated they would need to be convinced safety concerns were fully addressed before ever considering traveling in one.

Offshore members in the survey said the following in relation to flying in the Sikorsky S-92 helicopters:

  • 43% expressed concerns over supply chain issues affecting helicopter safety, but, if resolved, it would allay fears.
  • 36% stated they had confidence in the S-92.
  • 17% stated safety concerns, including the recent Norway crash, had “really shaken” confidence in the S-92.

In response to a question on general helicopter safety issues, respondents said the following:

  • 35% stated the Sikorsky S-92 helicopters are reliable but supply chain issues had to be resolved.
  • 34% stated that the oil and gas industry is too reliant on a small number of helicopter models.
  • 19% called for more worker participation in the design and procurement of helicopters to address safety concerns.

John Boland, Unite’s lead officer in the offshore sector, said, “Unite will ensure that concerns over helicopter safety are fully addressed by the oil and gas industry. … Offshore workers have clearly spoken about their horror over the Super Puma model ever being reintroduced and have also expressed their concerns about supply chain issues impacting on the safety of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter. The industry must take note of what offshore workers are saying and work with Unite to resolve these safety concerns.”
The 1,200 survey respondents come from a range of roles including operators, drillers, maintenance, caterers, and cleaners. Workers from several major operators and contractors participated, including from Altrad, Aramark, Bilfinger, Odjfell, Petrofac, Repsol, Stork and Wood.