New helicopter emergency life-jacket for offshore workers unveiled

Helicopter safetyA new life-jacket for thousands of offshore oil and gas workers who travel to work by helicopter – mostly through Aberdeen airport – is to be introduced in Autumn 2014.

And Holyrood MPs on the cross-party Scottish parliamentary group on Oil and Gas were last night given a preview of the new jackets.

Les Linklater, Team Leader of the Aberdeen-based Step Change In Safety group, said: “The new life-jackets will help improve helicopter crash-landing survivability.

“The new jackets have double inflation tubes and have less chance of snagging during emergency exits. They also have high-visibility always-pressurised emergency breathing kits which just require wearers to unhook the mouthpiece to activate.

Giving workers more time in emergency landings equates to greater survivability.”

The new jackets – which are priced at around £1,000 per vest – were developed by a private sector manufacturer as part of a £1.4 million investment in offshore safety wear.

Before the formal launch of the new, improved emergency life-jackets, industry safety groups and trade union safety reps will prepare training and familiarisation courses for up to 60,000 offshore workers over the summer.

Offshore trade union safety representatives also told MSPs who attended last night’s Oil and Gas cross party group annual meeting that the new maximum ‘people size’ limit of 17- inches by 14-inches dimensions of helicopter windows-cum-emergency escape exits is ‘causing a lot of concern by workers who fear they may lose their jobs’ as a result of literally being too big to get through these hatches in an emergency.

These measures have been developed following the deaths of 20 people in a space of North Sea helicopter crashes over the past five years.

As part of new Civil Aviation Authority safety rules, workers who are too big to escape through the 17 14-in emergency ‘push-out’ window exits will be banned from flying and, from April 2016, there will be a ban on offshore flights unless all passengers wear emergency underwater breathing systems.

And from June, 1 helicopter trips in ‘the most severe sea conditions’ will be banned.

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