In April 2016, I wrote a column titled Standardizing Helidecks that gave some explanation to the complexity of attempting such a daunting move. Not much has changed regarding that complexity, but a lot has changed regarding an initiative put in place by the Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference (HSAC), the go-to group for offshore helicopter safety in the Gulf of Mexico and other parts of the world.
Since 1988, HSAC has published over 33 Recommended Practices (RPs), offering recommended methods of accomplishing a listed procedure in a safe manner. Of these, 15 are directly or indirectly concerned with operations on or about offshore helidecks.
Helidecks differ considerably from land-based heliports due to the compressed activity that takes place next to the landing site. Space is at a premium on these offshore platforms and the helidecks are not always positioned in the optimal locations for helicopter operations. Cranes, gas flares, exhaust gas emissions from large generators, wet and slick steel decks, turbulence, weight limitations and rotor clearance from obstacles are a few of the problems confronting a pilot on a hot day, 100 or more miles offshore.
In a major effort to bring together a standardized and comprehensive program that will enhance the safety of all helicopter operations throughout the Gulf of Mexico, HSAC has launched an initiative that will include all of the old RPs and add best practices to other helideck standards that exist literally around the globe.
This initiative has resulted in 5 HSAC RPs, starting with RP2016-1 through RP2016-4 and RP2019-1.
Within the HSAC organizational hierarchy is one working group among several that has carried out the task of putting together the ground work for this initiative. Headed up by Patrick Bosman, the Helideck Committee has spent many hours enlisting and coordinating the input from other HSAC members and the use of historical documents like the old RPs dating back as far as 1988. Among the members is Robert Williams, a retired Exxon-Mobil employee who managed this working group for many years and whose input has been invaluable. He is still volunteering his services without compensation. Bosman, Williams and their sub-group of HSAC members did yeoman’s work developing RP 2016-3 that is currently pending publication.
The assigned number and titles of the Helideck Design and Operations related RPs are as follows:
- RP 2016-1. New Build Helideck Design Guidelines Revision 2 (November 2017)
- RP2016-2. Assessment, Upgrades, Modification, Replacement and Marking of Existing and Temporary Helidecks Revision 1 (November 2017)
- RP2016-3. Inspection, Maintenance and Operation of Helidecks (To be published soon)
- RP2016-4. Standardization of Helideck information Plates. (May 2016)
- RP2019-1. Offshore incident Bowtie. (To be published soon)
• RP2016-2. Assessment, Upgrades, Modification, Replacement and Marking of Existing and Temporary Helidecks Revision 1 (November 2017)
• RP2016-3. Inspection, Maintenance and Operation of Helidecks (To be published soon)
• RP2016-4. Standardization of Helideck information Plates. (May 2016)
• RP2019-1. Offshore incident Bowtie. (To be published soon)
The bowtie reference above relates to a method of locating threats through simple analysis and finding the correct mitigation by adding controls and barriers. The newly-developed RP2019-1 provides links to controls and barriers that have already been developed and are a part of existing HSAC RPs. It also shows controls and barriers that are yet to be developed. RP2019-1 thus provides a roadmap for future work by the Helidecks Committee.
RP2016-3 appears to indicate an older RP. However, this document has been in development since 2016 and after many manhours of work by the sub-group, meeting weekly by teleconference for the past year, it is now complete and, together with RP2019-1, has been submitted to the HSAC board for final approval and publication.
The standards found in the RPs are currently being reviewed by other interested parties for implementation into their operations. HSAC is truly influencing operations on a global level.
More information about HSAC is available on their website at www.hsac.org, including the above-mentioned Recommended Practices.