One of Scotland's most horrendous disasters in oil and gas history was remembered in Aberdeen today.
A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of meeting Steve Rae, one of the 61 survivors of Piper Alpha and, in our conversations, something emerged about an aspect of the UK continental shelf that I’m becoming increasingly concerned about – the threat of overbearing regulation and the problems that it will create sooner or later. Or indeed has done already.
How empowered are offshore workers to speak up about safety or even to stop the job when the risks have become unacceptable?
Nearly 1,000 people gathered at a special memorial event last night to remember the 167 men who died in the Piper Alpha disaster 30 years ago.
It was sent all the way from Australia to Aberdeen as a means of commemorating those who died on Piper Alpha.
A fundraising event for the upkeep of the Piper Alpha memorial gardens in Aberdeen is closing in on its £30,000 target.
An offshore union has called for better protection for workers on the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster.
They are two words inextricably linked with tragedy and human loss on an unprecedented scale in the history of offshore energy.
On the 7th of July 1988 the country woke up to an unfolding tragedy, yet it wasn’t until the evening, sitting down to the nine o’clock news that most of us learned of the enormity of what had happened on the Piper Alpha oil platform.
Offshore chaplain Reverend Gordon Craig believes the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha tragedy can bring the disaster “out of the history books and into real life” for many young oil workers.
Shane Gorman was just 18 when the Piper Alpha tragedy unfolded, with his father, Dave, being among the 167 people to lose their lives.
Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of the Unite trade union, says he does not believe employers have learned enough from the disaster.
The executive director of Step Change in Safety says the industry “must believe” that a Piper Alpha-scale disaster could never happen again in the North Sea.
Religious leaders have spoken of how the world must remember Piper Alpha because “we dare not forget”.
On the evening of the 6th July 1988 I went to bed as I always did at just after midnight because I was in charge of my then baby son’s last feed. Having listened to the news during that feed I was aware that there was a fire offshore but at that point in time the details were sparse.
With the 30th anniversary of Piper Alpha upon us, the oil and gas industry deserves credit for its response to the tragedy and the way health and safety measures have been improved to protect the workforce.
Steve Rae counts himself among the fortunate 61 who survived Piper Alpha and has made it his duty to ensure that the legacy of the disaster of July 6, 1988, when 167 offshore workers perished, “continues to be revisited, referenced and shared whenever possible with all those connected to and directly employed in the oil and gas industry”.
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Piecing together precisely what happened, why it happened and how to prevent another Piper Alpha happening again took Lord Cullen well over a year and 400 pages. The impact can be seen across the industry today and his verdict on the present state of offshore safety continues to hold great weight.
The scale of the Piper Alpha disaster was beyond anything Aberdeen's flagship hospital had experience before. At the helm was medical director Gordon Stone, who vividly recalls the extraordinary team spirit show by staff.
“Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us in work. It is a matter of life and death. It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines whether the people we work with live or die.”
The first government official on the scene after Piper Alpha exploded still remembers the smell of the burning paint that greeted him when he landed on the nearest support vessel.
It is a date written indelibly into our history.
The earliest memory Marc Reid has of his father was that his hands looked different to other people’s – badly scarred during his escape from the blazing platform.
Oil and gas industry bosses have been urged to maintain the focus on safety in the face of new challenges within the sector.