Retired justice Robert Wells examined how safety conditions can be improved for workers who rely on helicopters to reach offshore oil installations.

A long-awaited report into offshore helicopter safety will be delivered in St. John's Wednesday, with one lawyer hoping for monumental changes in how workers are protected.

Robert Wells, a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, will deliver his report to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which itself may be transformed in the wake of the inquiry.

Wells was instructed not to study what caused Cougar flight 491 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean in March 2009 — the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is examining that — but to study instead how transport for workers can be made safer.

The Cougar crashed killed 17 of the 18 people on board, casting a pall over the offshore oil industry.

The Wells inquiry exposed serious deficiencies in how workers are flown to fields off Newfoundland's east coast.

Randell Earle, a St. John's lawyer who represents unionized workers, said it has become evident that shortcomings in safety standards are symptomatic of a lax attitude at the CNLOPB, which regulates both the auctions of oil reserves as well as enforcing the safety of workers.

"That cried out for radical change in the attitude of the regulator," Earle said recently.

"We are unquestionably behind the North Sea … both the British and the Scandinavian sides."

At the onset of the inquiry, Wells stated that Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry should have world-class safety standards.