To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent discussions she has had with (a) ministerial colleagues in the Department for Transport and (b) the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation on changes to the basic offshore safety induction and emergency training standard since the Civil Aviation Authority’s most recent recommendations on improving passenger safety and survivability in the helicopter transport sector of the offshore oil and gas industry.
Offshore helicopter safety falls within the remit of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There have been no recent discussions between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) on changes to the basic offshore safety induction training (BOSIET) syllabus with respect to helicopter transport. Although HSE has no direct influence on the content of OPITO training syllabuses (it is a matter for OPITO and the offshore Oil and Gas Industry), HSE actively engaged with OPITO/Oil & Gas UK Ltd in September 2015 following the CAA’s decision to introduce the new Category A Emergency Breathing System (EBS) of a compressed-air underwater escape system for offshore helicopter transport.
HSE had no direct involvement in the CAA decision. However, because this system uses compressed air as part of basic offshore survival training it is subject to the Diving at Work Regulations 1997 (DAWR). These regulations require anyone diving as part of a work activity to pass a medical carried out by an HSE approved medical Examiner. However, this medical sets an unnecessarily high standard for the type of training undertaken. HSE worked out a balance between allowing realistic OPITO training and the risk of barotrauma to participants. Consequently, in 2015 HSE issued an Exemption Certificate from DAWR to allow training “in pool” to proceed to max depth of 1.5m, provided participants had been passed fit following an examination to a set standard by a registered medical practitioner. Following further consultation with industry, a new exemption certificate was issued in April 2017. This incorporated the medical requirements of the original certificate issued in 2015 for helicopter escape training but allowed for unrestricted medical certificate of fitness for offshore work to be acceptable for shallow water training. A further exemption was issued in 2018 to allow a similar provision for the acceptability of unrestricted medical certificates of fitness to work at sea. All exemptions followed consultation with the industry and allow for the required training to be undertaken whilst still providing a level of protection to those taking part.
There is an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between HSE and the CAA that includes arrangements for the regulation of offshore helicopter transport. As part of this MoU, there are regular meetings held between HSE and CAA to discuss offshore helicopter safety-related issues.