This week the Helicopter Safety Steering Group announced future changes to the way seating is allocated on helicopter flights.
A new size categorisation system is to be put into place before April next year to meet the CAA’s deadline that all passengers travelling offshore must be able to fit through the emergency exit window they are sat nearest to.
This raised many questions and concerns – and a good bit of debate!
Bob Egan – Rig Baby’s voice of offshore safety and one of Step Change’s G18 Safety Reps – answers some of the top questions you asked on the subject!
Q – Why not change the window sizes on the choppers?
This would take years and there are lots of different types and sizes of helicopter in operation in the North Sea.
Q – Why 22 inches?
Those with a shoulder breadth under 22 inches are able to get through the smallest windows with their survival suit and life jacket on. The windows are measured diagonally (like a TV is) and the idea is people would go through them in a sort of superman position.
Q – Why are they measuring the shoulders and not the belly?
The shoulders are solid and less flexible. The belly is soft and when you stretch it’s reduces in thickness and can fit out of the window.
Q – Does this meet with the CAA recommendations?
Yes the new criteria meets the recommendations set out in CAP 1145
Q – How will extra broad passengers and seats be identified?
Those in the Extra Broad (XBR) category will wear an arm band. They will go to the seats beside the larger windows that will be identified with hoods on the head rests.
Q – What about the other passengers? How will there seats be allocated?
The other passengers will continue to seat themselves as they do now, either sitting where they choose or are asked to sit for weight distribution.
Q – How many XBR’s can go on a chopper?
The CAA say 31.5% of the seats are suitable for XBR size people, so I work that out at an average of 5 extra broad people per chopper. (This may vary slightly between make and models)
Q – Who will take the measurement and when?
This is still being worked on but it looks like it will be managed in a similar way to the new EBS training and taken near the heliport. (Perhaps medics and then at your medical.) The measurement will then be stored on your vantage card.
Q – Is this unfair on the people who are not XBR?
I don’t see it as that as everyone will be sitting at, or close to a window exit they fit out of, in the event of an uncontrolled landing on the sea. Plus it may be 2 XBR people who are side by side near their nearest exit.
So rotas and logistics will have to reflect the passenger size and make up of the passengers.
Q – When will this happen?
The work is starting now and as soon as there is more information Step Change in Safety will post it. It has to be in place by the 1st April 2015 to meet the CAA deadline.
Some thoughts on the matter from Bob:
“My thoughts are this should be seen as a positive thing and quite a few of us have been saying for a long time that people should not be at exits they can’t or would struggle to fit out off.”
“As for the health and fitness of people going offshore this is an issue that needs also addressed, by everyone, but this is about in the worse case event of an uncontrolled landing on the sea everyone standing a better chance of escape, the same as the new life jacket EBS.”
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