Organizations in the oil and gas industry depend on contracted aviation operators to transport personnel to work sites for the collection of geophysical data. Many employees and contractors are therefore exposed to air transportation risks as passengers.

Although aviation incidents are relatively infrequent, they can occur almost anywhere and often result in multiple fatalities. A coordinated response to aviation incidents is needed whether the aircraft is directly contracted or has a company has its personnel on board. It is essential to ensure there is a suitable and sufficient emergency response plan (ERP) in place.

This paper looks at how an oilfield services company uses a risk-based approach to determine audit requirements for ERPs used by aviation contractors to ensure the provisions are suitable and sufficient.

The first step is a screening process, to determine the need to specifically audit an aviation operator's ERP based on a specified set of criteria. If all the screening criteria are not met, an aviation operator ERPs assessment is conducted using an assessment tool. This process provides a rating score, taking account of the nature of the flights and the flight environment, as well as the type of aircraft, the background of the aviation operator and specific criteria for offshore helicopter operations. This assessment is conducted on both aviation operations which are contracted directly by the oilfield services company and those contracted by others, where the oilfield services company's personnel may be exposed to risk if there are inadequate mitigation controls.

For aviation transportation in geographic areas where state agencies do not establish procedures and provide resources for search and rescue it is necessary to ensure call-out procedures within the local aviation community and local emergency responders are suitable and sufficient.

Where high risk ERP findings are identified, the aviation operator is required to address these issues within a specified timescale. Any new or significantly modified procedures, equipment or practices which require to be implemented are to be tested to ensure effectiveness by having conducted a successful ERP exercise. A risk-based approach is taken to determine the requirement for an audit of the adequacy of aviation operator's ERP.

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