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The Changing Shape of Helicopter Safety

From 1 April 2015, all passengers travelling offshore by helicopter will be required to sit in a seat where the nearest push-out exit is compatible with their body size. It has been reported by the Evening Express( that workers who have gone offshore without being measured first could be stranded offshore without pay until they can be measured.

Earlier this month, a team at Robert Gordon University concluded its two year study into how the average size and shape of the North Sea workforce has changed over the last three decades. Passengers with a shoulder width of 22 inches or more (around 10% of the workforce) will be classified as extra broad and will be allocated to sit near sufficiently large windows, with around 30% of the windows on the existing helicopter fleet classified as suitable. Shoulder width has been used as the key measurement due to the solidity and inflexibility of the shoulders in comparison to the soft and compressible stomach.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Oil and Gas UK, discovered that male offshore works are now 2% taller and 19% heavier than they were in the mid-1980s. The study also identified substantial increases in the circumference of body certain regions which could affect safe egress in emergency situations. While there was an initial focus on an assumed growth in the waistline,  it is actually thought that muscle bulk due to well-equipped gyms on offshore platforms have played a part in the increase in size and weight of the workforce!

Robert Paterson, Oil and Gas UK’s Director of Health, Safety and Employment issues, commented “Data collected will inform all aspects of offshore ergonomics and health and safety, from informing seat design for use in helicopters and lifeboats, survival suit design and space availability in corridors and work environments offshore”.

In addition to providing valuable data, the study has generated an ongoing capability to measure offshore workers in the future which will in turn continue to inform those responsible for health and safety. This study is just one example of an increased health and safety focus in the offshore helicopter industry following a number of high profile accidents, with recommendations from last year’s Civil Aviation Authority Safety Review also leading to significant changes. If you would like to discuss any aspect of this blog or health and safety in the offshore industry generally, please contact Malcolm Mackay, Ryan Openshaw or your usual Brodies Health and Safety contact.


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