Emergency motion on helicopter safety backed by TUC delegates

An emergency motion calling for a public inquiry into the safety of Super Puma helicopters has been backed at the TUC conference.

The Unite union moved the motion demanding full fatal accident inquiries into the “spate of accidents” that have plagued Super Pumas over recent years.

The move follows last month’s fatal helicopter accident off Shetland which claimed four lives.

An RNLI volunteer trains the Aith lifeboat spotlight onto the ditched helicopter. Photo: RNLI
An RNLI volunteer trains the Aith lifeboat spotlight onto the ditched helicopter during the rescue mission. Photo: RNLI

Unite’s motion also demanded that all L2 Super Pumas like the one which ditched on its approach to Sumburgh on 23rd August, remain grounded until declared fit and safe; that union members are supported if they refuse to travel in the Super Pumas and that the helicopter operators and oil companies should invest in new fleet of helicopters.

Vice-chairman of the Unite national executive, Mark Lyon, told delegates the fatal accident was a “sobering reminder about the precarious nature of working life in the UK offshore industry.”

He said the families of those involved in tragedies, including the 2009 incident which claimed 16 lives off the coast of Aberdeen, wanted reassurances it would not happen again.

“Our unions want a public inquiry – similar to the inquiry into the Piper Alpha tragedy 25 years ago. We want to know why these helicopters have had five incidents in four years.

“We recognise there are no simple solutions – there are key issues about health and safety and we know that you cannot ground 50 per cent of the fleet forever – so there has to be some answers.

“The only way for the industry to demonstrate that safety is of paramount importance is to hold an inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened and we need to examine all issues connected to travel to and from work on helicopters.”

He repeated the unions support for members who refused to board the helicopters until the “are given a clean bill of health.”

GMB, which represents workers employed in the offshore oil and gas industry, supported the motion.

National officer for the offshore sector, David Hulse, said: “GMB demand that safety has a higher priority than profits with investment in new and safer helicopters.”

The accident off Sumburgh happened when the Super Puma L2 plunged from the sky at Garths Ness as it returned from the Borgsten Dolphin platform east of the isles.

The four who died were Duncan Munro, Sarah Darnley, Gary McCrossan and George Allison.

The funeral of Ms Darnley has been held today. Mr McCrossan’s funeral was held on Friday.


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