It was announced in the last few days that the UK Government are unwilling to hold a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety despite Westminster’s transport select committee reporting that there was evidence commercial pressure could put safety at risk.
I, along with colleagues, have been calling on this course of action to be taken for a significant time now after a series of helicopters ditching in the North Sea with four incidents in a five year period including two which resulted in fatalities totalling 20 deaths.
It is very disappointing that the UK Government at Westminster are unwilling to pursue an enquiry which would have been similar to the Cullen enquiry which was held after Piper Alpha. Offshore safety is an area which is of particular concern in our part of Scotland given so many jobs provided by the oil and gas industry makes it likely that everybody knows someone who has worked offshore.
A survey produced by Unite the Union at the time their Back Home Safe campaign was launched showed that over 50% of workers are not confident about the safety of offshore helicopter flights and that 81% of workers said that their level of confidence in helicopter flights had decreased in the 12 months before.
The Department for Transport claim they have not seen any evidence to suggest that safety has been compromised which is difficult to understand given that the ditching near Sumburgh last year, where four workers tragically lost their lives, was the fourth incident in a five year period.
I led a members’ debate in Holyrood after this incident where I reiterated the calls for a full public enquiry. The Government cannot simply brush this problem under the carpet. Safety in the work place should be top of the agenda for any employer and the Government have a duty to ensure that this is the case.
While the UK Government may see this as the end of the line for this issue, it is clear that the push for improvements to the safety of offshore flight will go on with Unite’s Back Home Safe campaign continuing.
No worker should have to fear travelling to and from work and I will continue to do all I can to ensure that this is recognised by governments at all level.