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Studying size of North Sea oil workers 'has made industry safer' 

Researchers at the Robert Gordon University used 3D scanners to study nearly 600 people.

By STV News

Published 12 Feb 2016.

The North Sea is a safer place as a result of research into the size of oil workers, scientists say.

Researchers at the Robert Gordon University (RGU) studied nearly 600 people using 3D scanners to determine how their size could affect their ability to escape from a ditched helicopter.

They found that oil workers are getting bigger but said new safety regulations introduced as a result of their work have improved offshore safety.

Twenty people have lost their lives in North Sea helicopter ditchings in the last decade.

Researchers found that some of the largest oil workers would be unable to escape from a window built to the minimum regulation size, but no North Sea helicopters use windows that small.

New regulations were introduced last year which means helicopter passengers are now seated near appropriately-sized windows.

RGU's Dr Arthur Stewart said fears the new regulations would prevent oil workers from flying offshore were unfounded.

He said: "What we've shown is that in the last 30 years people have got much, much bigger. Part of that is because oil workers are now older and older people tend to be heavier and bigger.

"But I don't think a single person has missed a single flight offshore because of the new seating plans.

"We've made the North Sea a safer place to travel to."

The researchers measured the shoulder breadth of 588 male North Sea oil workers and compared that to the minimum regulation window size.

Dr Stewart added: "Short of assessing all 62,000 offshore workers in the North Sea by scanning or requiring them to do window egress trials of actual windows of helicopters, we hope to augment the study with future work which will examine spine and shoulder flexibility."

Les Linklater, executive director of offshore body Step Change in Safety, said: "Working with RGU was vital to ensure the success of our passenger size project and the safety of the offshore workforce."