Along with other safety measures designed to improve the survivability of a helicopter ditching, the CAA are proposing that size and weight limits be applied to offshore workers.
The restrictions, which are due to come into place as of April 2015, are to ensure that all personnel can escape from a helicopter in the event of water impact where escape from a window exit is required.
Robert Gordon University has been carrying out research into offshore workers size and weight since March 2013, with the aim of establishing the average size of an offshore worker, particularly when wearing bulky helicopter PPE.
Dr Arthur Stewart, a project leader on the study, said:
“The last body size survey of offshore workers was undertaken in the mid 1980s and since then the average weight of the workforce has risen by 19%. ”
“Understanding this change in size and space requirements for the offshore workforce is important as their current workplace is designed for personnel as they were a quarter of a century ago.”
He went on to say, “Knowing the actual size of the workforce, together with size increments imposed by different types of clothing, will enable space-related risk to be managed and future design for space provision optimised.”
Although Dr Stewart mentions the possibility of future design changes, the CAA has said that “increasing the size of the push-out window exits (or any other exit) on an existing helicopter is generally impractical.”
They suggest that the same outcome – a correlation between exit size and worker – can be achieved by applying a restriction to passenger size.
As such, with effect from 01 April 2015, “helicopter operators are to ensure that only passengers with a body size (including all required safety and survival equipment) commensurate with push-out window exit size are carried on offshore helicopter flights.”
Whilst increasing weight continues to be a concern for the general population, and the many welcome both the health and safety implications of such restrictions, there has been concern both within the workforce and industry leaders who fear a possible skill shortage in the offing.