The Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry was established on April 8, 2009, by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) as the Inquiry into Matters Respecting Helicopter Passenger Safety for Workers in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area. The Inquiry will determine and recommend improvements to the safety regime to ensure the risks of helicopter transportation of offshore workers in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area are as low as reasonably practicable. The Inquiry was established following the tragic helicopter crash offshore Newfoundland and Labrador on March 12, 2009, in which 17 people were killed.
On April 16, 2009, the C-NLOPB appointed the Honourable Robert Wells, Q. C., as the Commissioner for the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry. Subsequently, Commissioner Wells appointed John Roil, Q. C., and Anne Fagan, as Counsel. The office is located at Tara Place, 31 Peet Street.
The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry were released on May 25, 2009, and amended on February 11, 2010, to extend the deadline for the Commissioner to file his report. There will be two phases to the Inquiry and the Terms of Reference were further amended on October 7, 2010, in respect of the mandate under Phase II.
In Phase I, there are two parts which will be undertaken at the same time. Phase I is to be completed by September 30, 2010. In one part, the Commissioner will ask for input from the public concerning practices which will reduce the safety risk of helicopter transportation in the offshore area. The public input will be gathered through written submissions and through any other means determined by the Commissioner. That could include formal or informal hearings and interviews.
During the other part, the Commissioner will gather information to make recommendations regarding:
- The safety plan requirements for companies operating in the offshore and the role the companies play to ensure their safety plans are maintained by helicopter operators;
- Search and rescue obligations of helicopter operators as required by contract, legislation or regulations; and,
- The role of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and other regulators to ensure the legislative requirements for worker safety are being followed.
The Commissioner may get this information through research studies; consultation with offshore regulators in other jurisdictions; calling for written submissions; and by holding hearings.
In Phase II, the Commissioner will review the final report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada on its investigation into the crash of the Cougar Helicopter Sikorsky S92-A. In reviewing the final investigation report, the Commissioner will advise the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB): a) which findings should result in actions being recommended to be undertaken by C-NLOPB and how they should be implemented; and, b) which findings should result in actions being recommended to be taken by other legislative or regulatory agencies.
The mandate of the Offshore Helicopter Inquiry does not include an investigation into the cause of the crash of the Cougar Helicopter Sikorsky S92-A as the investigation is the responsibility of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. In addition, the Commission’s mandate does not include an examination of the provision by the Government of Canada (Department of National Defence) of Search and Rescue facilities for all marine incidents and the location of such facilities within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The full Terms of Reference for the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiryas amended on February 11, 2010, and on October 7, 2010, are available by clicking here