In the ever-evolving landscape of industrial safety, helideck inspections are a crucial element in ensuring the safety and compliance of helidecks across the globe. From the bustling shipyards of Singapore to the serene expanses of the Arctic Circle, these inspections play a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity and safety of helideck operations. As we delve into the intricate details of what a helideck inspection entails, we unravel the comprehensive process that ensures not only adherence to regulations but also the security of those who rely on these vital platforms for transport and operations.

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Before the actual onsite inspection even begins, a meticulous and comprehensive preparation phase takes place. This initial step sets the tone for the entire inspection process. A rigorous pre-inspection planning strategy is adopted to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency during the inspection. This involves scrutinising each helideck’s characteristics, studying its history, identifying any modifications since the last inspection, and assessing how any recent regulatory changes might impact its compliance status. Through an extensive database, historical data is analysed, highlighting ongoing issues or problematic areas that require attention.

Furthermore, helideck inspections encompass more than just routine certifications. The process extends to certifying new builds and helidecks that have not been previously inspected by the Helideck Certification Agency (HCA). In these cases, an elevated level of preparation is undertaken, often involving pre-inspection consultations with the operator to ensure alignment of expectations.

Planning for Precision

The planning phase involves not only the analysis of data but also the logistical considerations of getting to the inspection site. Whether it’s a short helicopter ride, a voyage on a transfer boat, or a journey to a shipyard, each mode of transport is carefully planned. The goal is clear: to arrive at the designated location on time and equipped to conduct a thorough inspection.

On the Ground: Executing the Inspection

Once onsite, the inspector engages in a series of orchestrated steps to ensure a comprehensive inspection. The process begins with a thorough briefing with the relevant point of contact. This is a crucial step to align expectations and provide the installation or vessel ample time to prepare any necessary work permits for the impending tasks. In cases where inspections occur on non-fixed helidecks, such as vessels or semi-submersibles, the inspector takes into account future areas of operation and provides tailored guidelines specific to the region.

The inspection can be segmented into two primary components: the visual assessment of the helideck itself and the evaluation of associated internal equipment and certifications. The visual inspection encompasses various aspects, including paint markings, light conditions, perimeter net integrity, and adherence to height restriction zones. It’s important to note that regardless of how many times a helideck has been inspected, the same level of scrutiny is applied to ensure sustained safety.

A critical aspect of the inspection involves evaluating the firefighting systems onboard. This includes assessing parameters such as the flow rate of the delivery system, the availability of foam concentrate, and the efficiency of secondary firefighting media. The dimensions of the helideck play a significant role in determining these parameters. The main firefighting system’s operational functionality is also verified to ensure its ability to produce foam within regulatory timeframes.

Moreover, every helideck must be equipped with rescue apparatus and sufficient firefighting attire for the crew. These garments must adhere to specific safety standards, and the inspector examines each item for compliance.

Internals and Certifications

Beyond the external inspection, the inspector delves into a realm of certifications and calibrations. These include perimeter net drop tests, firefighting foam sample analyses, baggage scale calibrations, and meteorological system calibrations. The inspection extends to the crew as well, with a comprehensive review of their approved training certifications. This involves verifying the validity and currency of each certification and ensuring a consistent level of competency among crew members.

Every helideck is required to have an associated helicopter operations manual, complete with detailed content that guarantees operational efficacy. Just as an airport or heliport facilitates passenger check-ins, helideck-equipped installations and vessels must have mechanisms for passenger check-ins and baggage weighing and securing. The inspector ensures that these processes align with regulations and offers recommendations for improvement where necessary.

The Debrief and Beyond

As the inspection concludes, a vital step follows the debrief session. This session allows for a comprehensive discussion of findings while still on the inspection site. This real-time exchange of information enables prompt rectification of simple issues and paves the way for
immediate action on critical matters. If any critical findings arise that necessitate remediation, the relevant parties are informed, and the issuance of a helideck certificate is withheld until necessary actions are taken.

The Helideck Inspection Report

Upon completing the inspection, the Helideck Inspection Report (HIR) is generated. This document encapsulates every facet of the inspection and outlines the findings in intricate detail. To ensure accuracy, each HIR undergoes a thorough proofreading process conducted by a fellow inspector, thereby reinforcing the commitment to quality and precision.

In cases where no critical findings are identified, a helideck certificate is granted, valid for a period of two years. Yet, the role of the inspector extends beyond the issuance of the certificate. It entails two years of ongoing management services for the installation or vessel. This service provides a continuous avenue for resolving issues, addressing concerns, and seeking clarification. Furthermore, any regulatory changes within this span are communicated effectively, ensuring timely compliance adjustments.

An Unending Journey of Expertise

Engaging in helideck inspections is a perpetual journey of growth and expertise development. Every inspection presents the possibility of encountering previously unseen issues, making the role simultaneously captivating, challenging, and gratifying. Positioned at the forefront of this industry, HCA empowers its inspectors to cultivate their skills within a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. As these professionals navigate helidecks around the world, they do so armed with comprehensive knowledge, unwavering dedication, and an unyielding commitment to safety.

Contact our specialists today to ensure helideck safety and compliance.

CAA Letter March 2023
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