Aberdeen University launched an initiative yesterday – backed more than £1million of charity funding – aimed at cutting the toll of industrial fatalities in the UK.
Some of the cash is going into supporting a new head of safety and reliability engineering.
The chair was initially created, with industry funding, in 1990 in the wake of the North Sea Piper Alpha disaster but has been vacant since 2006, when Professor Michael Baker retired after 16 years in the post. He is still involved with the university as a professor emeritus.
Recruitment for the new Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust (LRET) chair in safety and reliability engineering, focused primarily on the oil and gas sector, is under way and an appointment is expected before the year-end.
The successful candidate will focus on research to improve knowledge of the safety measures needed to meet the requirements of a sector which is growing fast in terms of technology plus areas such as subsea engineering and renewable energy.
Professor Albert Rodger, the university’s vice-principal and head of physical sciences, said: “The industry is facing new challenges requiring a better understanding of the reliability of production systems and the hazards to humans and the natural environment.”
LRET’s £1.2million five-year support package will also support a new research fellow in safety and reliability engineering.
In addition, the university will create two three-year PhD student positions and 15 MSc scholarships.
According to the most recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive, there are more than 200 industrial fatalities a year in the UK.
Agriculture and construction have the highest death rates, together accounting for nearly half of all fatal injuries to workers.
It is hoped research carried out under the university’s new programme will help to reduce industrial deaths and injuries worldwide.
Prof Rodger said the LRET’s generous support would help to enhance the university’s position as a leader in the field of safety and reliability engineering.
“Our commitment to the subject is reflected in our strong history of high-quality research by internationally acclaimed academics in this field,” he added.
LRET director Michael Franklin said: “We are pleased to welcome the university to our network and look forward to a close and constructive relationship.”
The charity has now committed more than £12million over the coming five years to nationwide education and research centres aiming to achieve advances in transport, science, engineering and technology.