Super Puma crash: Call for accident probe overhaul

Three men and one woman died when the Super Puma helicopter crashed. Picture: Comp
Three men and one woman died when the Super Puma helicopter crashed. Picture: Comp
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Labour is leading calls for an overhaul of the fatal accident inquiry system one month after a helicopter crash in which four offshore workers died.

North East MSP Richard Baker will use debating time at Holyrood to highlight proposed legislation to change the regime.

It comes two days after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced a review of helicopter operations in the North Sea.

Three men and one woman died when a Super Puma helicopter crashed off the southern tip of Shetland last month. It was the fifth accident in the past four years.

Weeks earlier, Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson opened a public consultation on her Inquiries Into Deaths Bill, which she hopes will improve the investigation of sudden and accidental deaths, while putting families at the heart of the process.

Enforceable

Mr Baker said: “I am pleased to have secured this debate to press ministers to support Patricia Ferguson’s proposed Bill which would speed up the fatal accident inquiry process and ensure the recommendations of the inquiries are legally enforceable.

“I believe this would help ensure all necessary actions are taken after these incidents and help restore confidence in the workforce in helicopter safety which has been so damaged in recent years.”

Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of the Unite union, complained that an inquiry is yet to begin into a Super Puma crash off the Aberdeenshire coast in which 16 people died four years ago.

He said: “The case for reform is obvious. It is simply unacceptable that the families of the workers who perished in the April 2009 Super Puma crash are still waiting for the fatal accident inquiry process to begin and it also unacceptable that the recommendations of the fatal accident inquiry - when it does take place - cannot be legally enforced.”

Standards

The Scottish Government says it is already committed to bringing in legislation to improve the system.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said the debate is an opportunity to set out its core demands for the offshore industry.

The union is concerned that health and safety standards lag behind those in Norway.

It wants a public inquiry into the crash off the coast of Shetland and guaranteed union access to offshore workers.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said: “There are still so many outstanding issues from previous tragedies and the failures of the current fatal accident inquiry process and RMT is backing the families of those who have lost their lives in the fight for justice.

“While RMT welcomes the CAA investigation into helicopter safety it should be seen as an addition and not a substitute for the full public inquiry that RMT is demanding into the Super Puma tragedy in the North Sea on August 23.

“RMT is also demanding an investigation into North Sea safety which extends beyond just the use of helicopters but which covers every aspect of the offshore working environment. Twenty-five years after Piper Alpha the industry owes its workforce nothing less than that.”