New launch dates and emergency life jackets announced for N. Sea helicopter flights

Emergency breathing system - with the mouthpiece highly visible on the wearer's shoulder
Emergency breathing system – with the mouthpiece highly visible on the wearer’s shoulder

By Rebecca Shearer

The Helicopter Safety Steering Group has published a new safety briefing on the new emergency breathing system for offshore workers and has also confirmed the following dates on which EBS comes into force:

From 1 September 2014, no passengers may sit on the inside seats (not next to a window) of a helicopter without a Category A Emergency Breathing System (EBS). This was originally to come into force on 1 June 2014 but was delayedfollowing representations from Oil & Gas UK.

From 1 January 2015, no passengers may fly in a helicopter without a Category A EBS. This was originally to come into force on 1 January 2016 but has been brought forward. (The implementation date for crew remains as 1 January 2016).

This new system has been designed following an offshore safety review after the fatal helicopter accident in August 2013.

The new EBS is able to be used under water and in air, with the mouthpiece capable of being deployed in under 10 seconds. In cold water (12C), it is expected that the user will have 120 seconds of breathing air.

The new breathing system has been built into the new lifejacket, which is personally issued at the heliport in the same way the current re-breather is issued.

The system is live and ready to use and will call on colleagues to perform a buddy check to make sure it is fitted properly.

The biggest change will be the look of the lifejacket. It is slimmer and has the PSTASS bottle on the side with the mouthpiece sitting on the breast of the jacket. The EBS has been through rigorous in-water testing with a diverse group of people.

In order to have sufficient units available to roll out the training as efficiently as possible, the system will be in use in the following helicopter flights on the following provisional dates;

  • Scatsta and Sumburgh –18 August 2014
  • Norwich, Blackpool and Humberside –25 August 2014
  • Aberdeen –1 September 2014

The current LAP jacket will be withdrawn from service by 1 January 2015 and every effort is being made to ensure all passengers have the new Cat A EBS before this date.



Everyone travelling offshore with the new Cat A EBS must be trained with the new equipment.

This will be dry-training (in a classroom), to a recognised OPITO industry standard, delivered through approved training providers and recorded in VANTAGE.

Each training session will have a maximum of 20 people to one instructor. It is expected that this training course will last no longer than 90 minutes and delegates will be prioritised by the regions of deployment as listed above.

Everyone who successfully goes through the training will have this recorded in VANTAGE and receive a certificate to fly which can be presented at the heliport.

More information can be found on the Step Change in Safety website in the HSSG Knowledge Centre. If you have any further questions, please direct them to your employer or


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