C-NLOPB: Implementation Strategy for the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry (Canada)

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) announced  early steps in an implementation strategy for the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry Phase I Report Recommendations.

The report contains 29 recommendations. The C-NLOPB completed its review and accepts 27 of the 29 recommendations in full. Recommendation 12, which calls for an on-going ban on night flights, is accepted in principle. The Board has referred number 29, which recommends that changes be made in the Board’s mandate and structure, to governments. C-NLOPB Chair and CEO, Max Ruelokke, elaborated on the Board’s decisions regarding recommendations 12 and 29.

“The Commissioner’s recommendation on banning night flights is made on the basis that successful search and rescue during night is hampered by the unavailability of a properly equipped dedicated SAR helicopter. The Board accepts this rationale, and therefore is continuing the ban on night flying, except for medical emergencies,” said Mr. Ruelokke. “However, the Board has also directed operators to improve their first response capability, and they have acquired a dedicated SAR helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and night vision. The required auto-hover is still in the certification process with the US Federal Aviation Authority and Transport Canada. When the auto-hover is certified, the Board will revisit the decision to ban all night flights.”

With respect to recommendation 29, only governments can change the Board’s mandate. “The C-NLOPB has formally conveyed this recommendation to governments and we will examine ways within the current legislative framework in which we can modify our current structure and practices to meet the intent of this recommendation,” said Mr. Ruelokke. “The Chief Safety Officer currently has full authority to exercise independent jurisdiction to protect safety. Some examples of additional autonomy might include separation of the ‘Operations’ responsibilities from the Safety Division, the establishment of a separate budget for the Division, and the establishment of an Expert Advisory Board.”

The Inquiry Report contains several themes, but most notable are the need for greater worker involvement; increased transparency by the C-NLOPB, operators and the helicopter contractors; improved access for the C-NLOPB to aviation expertise; and more separation between safety and resource management decisions at the Board. The Board believes that its strategy addresses these themes.

The Board’s strategy involves the creation of two teams – an Aviation Team and a Safety Team. The two teams will develop work plans for many of the recommendations. Other recommendations have been directed to the operators for response. The proposed response(s), once developed, will be reviewed by the Board for implementation. Both Teams will be led by a senior person from outside the C-NLOPB with expertise in these respective fields, and will be comprised of Board staff, worker representatives, operator representatives, a representative from Cougar, and other agencies where necessary. The work plans, and subsequent monthly progress reports, will be made public on the C-NLOPB website.

To lead the Aviation Team, the Board announces that it has acquired the services of Peter McKeage, former Commanding Officer 424 Squadron and Wing Commander 9 Wing Gander, as an Aviation Safety Advisor. Mr. McKeage has a long and distinguished search and rescue background predominantly on the east coast that spans from 1979-2005. He has over 28 years of strategic, operational and tactical military flying experience. He has accumulated over 5100 hours of pilot in command experience on numerous aircraft, including the Labrador and Cormorant Helicopters. He was also the co-pilot of the first SAR helicopter that responded to the Ocean Ranger’s mayday call on the night of February 14, 1982.

The Board is searching for an appropriate person from outside the C-NLOPB to lead the Safety Team, and expects to choose a successful candidate in the next week or so.

“Safety is a process of continuous improvement – there is no finish line. It is something that we all, collectively, have a responsibility to work toward improving,” said Mr. Ruelokke. “Implementing the Inquiry report will require the collective efforts of governments, regulators, operators, offshore workers, the helicopter contractor, and others as required.”

Mr. Ruelokke stressed that offshore safety is the absolute number one priority for all Board members and employees.

Source: CNLOPB ,December 14, 2010; Image: looking-glass-animations

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