Q. What is the purpose of the Inquiry?
The Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry was established by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to 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 is reasonably practicable.
Q. How will the Inquiry conduct its work?
The Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry will conduct its work in two phases:
In Phase I, there are two parts. For one part, the Commissioner will ask for input from the public concerning practices which will reduce the risk of helicopter transportation in the offshore area. The public input may be gathered through written submissions and through any other means determined by the Commissioner as appropriate which may 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 these companies play to ensure that 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 obtain that information through research studies; consultations with offshore regulators in other jurisdictions; calling for written submissions; and by holding public 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.
Q. Can members of the general public attend the Inquiry hearings?
Yes, the public are welcome to attend the hearings. The hearing room is located at Tara Place, 31 Peet Street.
Q. Can a member of the public make a submission to the inquiry?
Yes. The Commissioner would welcome any written submission by a member of the public providing information that would assist the Inquiry in its mandate to ensure the transportation of workers to the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area by helicopter is as safe as reasonably practicable.
Q. How can a member of the public make a submission to the Inquiry?
By sending or delivering a letter or written submission to the attention of Commissioner Robert Wells, Q. C., at the Inquiry office at:
Suite 213, Tara Place
31 Peet Street
P.O. Box 8037
St. John’s, NL
Q. When can a member of the public make a written submission?
Written submissions can be made at any time prior to the conclusion of the public hearings in Phase 1.
Q. What witnesses will appear before the Inquiry?
When witnesses have been determined, that information will be available on the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry website.
Q. When will the Inquiry start to hold hearings?
The current schedule expects the hearings to begin by mid-October 2009.
Q. How long will the hearings last?
It is difficult to predict the length of time over which the hearings will be held. The time will depend on the number of witnesses that will appear before the Inquiry and the length of their testimony.
Q. When will the Inquiry present its report and recommendations to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board?
According to the Terms of Reference, amended February 11, 2010, the Inquiry is scheduled to submit its final report by September 30, 2010, unless an extension of time becomes necessary.
Q. Will the Inquiry look into where Department of National Defence search and rescue operations are located?
No. The mandate of the Inquiry does not include a review of search and rescue operations and their locations.
Q. Will the Inquiry have any involvement with the legal action taken by the families against a Sikorsky subsidiary?
No. Any legal proceedings that are taken as a result of the March 12, 2009, crash are completely outside the mandate of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry.
Q. Will the Inquiry determine the cause of the crash of the Cougar Helicopter Sikorsky S92-A which occurred on March 12, 2009?
No. The official investigation into the March 12, 2009, crash is being conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).
Q. What is the mandate of the TSB?
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It does not assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
The mission of the TSB is to conduct independent safety investigations and communicate risks in the transportation system. To learn more about the investigation process of the TSB, please visit http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/enquetes-investigations/index.asp.
Q. What makes this inquiry different from the investigation that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is conducting?
The Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry (OHSI) will examine helicopter operations in the offshore to ensure oil workers get to and from the rigs safely by helicopter. The inquiry will examine licensing, regulations and the setting of contract provisions to improve safety.
The TSB investigation will look at all of the evidence available to determine the causes and contributing factors that led to the crash of Cougar 491 and identify all of the risks in the helicopter transportation system. The TSB has sole jurisdiction to determine the causes of the accident.
At the end of the day, the OHSI inquiry and the TSB investigation will both seek to improve safety for workers in the offshore oil industry.
Q. Will the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry (OHSI) and the TSB report jointly on this accident?
No. The OHSI and TSB reports will be independent of each other with the OHSI report examining the best ways to ensure offshore workers get to and from the rigs safely. The TSB investigation will determine the causes and contributing factors that led to the accident and identify any risks.
Q. Can I make submissions to the TSB investigation?
The public may provide information to the TSB Investigator in Charge. This information will be taken into account and, if deemed relevant, used in the investigation.
Q. How does the TSB conduct an investigation?
There are three main phases of a TSB investigation: the Field Phase, the Post-Field Phase and the Report Production Phase. The Field Phase consists of gathering information about all aspects of the accident. It is during the Post-Field Phase that all of the information and data is analysed. The Report Production Phase is where the investigative team begins the long and labour intensive process of drafting the investigation report for the Board’s review and ultimate approval. After these phases have been completed, the TSB report is made public.
Q. How long does a TSB investigation take?
As not all investigations are the same, the duration of a TSB investigation varies.
The TSB conducts thorough investigations to determine the causes and contributing factors of an accident. It takes the time needed to ensure that a thorough investigation has been done – an investigation that answers the questions: What happened? Why did it happen? and, What can be done to prevent it from happening again? This involves detailed and extensive analysis of all the data and information collected. As the analysis progresses, we never know when and if new information may come to the investigation. Were that to happen, the analysis phase would continue until all the information is fully analysed.
Once the analysis is completed, a confidential draft report (CDR) is written, undergoes an internal quality assurance process and is submitted to the Board for review. After the Board has approved the CDR, as required by law, it circulates it to the designated reviewers – the persons and organizations whose interests may be affected and who are most qualified to comment on its factual accuracy. In a complex investigation like Cougar 491, it is not unusual for this process to take a considerable length of time. An investigation is completed when the Board has reviewed the comments received and has approved the final investigation report for publication. However, if during the course of an investigation, the TSB uncovers a safety issue requiring urgent attention, it will make that information available as quickly as possible.