Temporary grounding of Super Pumas is a "proportionate response" to last week’s fatal accident in the North Sea, said the UK’s largest professional body in occupational safety.
However, an outright ban of the helicopter model, intended to restore confidence in the transport of workers to and from oil and gas platforms, would be "too simplistic" a solution at this stage, warned the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG), comprising oil and aviation industry representatives, has recommended that all models of the Super Puma series should be grounded for "all commercial passenger flights to and from offshore oil and gas installations within the UK".
It issued the advice after the deaths of four oil workers who were travelling in a Super Puma when it ditched in the sea, off Shetland, on Friday.
Allison Laws, chair of IOSH’s Offshore Group, said: "Despite the entirely understandable fears of those who fly offshore, it is precipitous to suggest getting rid of all Super Pumas right now, when there is no evidence yet about what went wrong.
"The urgency and extent of necessary improvements after any accident is justified by what happens, but all the remedial actions taken should be linked to why the event happened.
"Until we begin to understand the causes, the immediate cessation of all commercial Super Puma flights is a proportionate response. We commend HSSG for their rapid recommendation of this."
An online campaign has called for the destruction of Super Pumas in the wake of the tragedy.
Ms Laws added: "In both the short- and possibly long-term, alternative transport methods may be deployed for some workers – but none are risk-free, which is why simply banning one model of helicopter that carries up to 50% of current passengers is too simplistic a response.
"We are also concerned that, due to the very natural current focus by all parties on helicopter risks, that attention of the industry and workforce remains on safety while offshore, including other safety-critical offshore activities, such as the prevention of hydrocarbon releases and the management of aging structures.
"A proportionate and balanced response to all the risks faced by offshore workers, as summarised in the safety case for each UK offshore installation, continues to be very important."
Adapted from a press release by David Bizley
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