Next month marks the 25th anniversary of what remains the worst disaster in the North Sea oil industry’s history.
On July 7 1988, Scotland awoke to the awful news that the Piper Alpha drilling platform 129 miles off the north-east coast of Scotland, had been destroyed with the loss of 167 lives.
Around 10pm the day before, an explosion triggered a massive fire fed by oil being pumped from nearby platforms and disabled Pier Alpha’s automatic fire fighting system.
The resulting tragedy affected not just the lives of the 225 men working on Piper Alpha but also their families and changed forever attitudes to health and safety in the oil and gas industry.
Following a stringent investigation by Lord Cullen, which criticised health and safety procedures on Piper Alpha and across the wider North Sea industry, more effective regulations, supported by the industry and the Scottish and UK Governments, were introduced.
Lord Cullen’s inquiry lead to a huge change in the way safety is assessed and managed by each company operating in the industry.
All 106 of Lord Cullen’s recommendations were implemented and accepted by the industry.
The Health and Safety Executive Offshore Division was established and continues to identify vital work to maintain the safety and integrity of the North Sea infrastructure to reduce the risks for the people who work offshore.
Across Scotland 200,000 people work in the sector.
It continues to play a vital role in Scotland’s economy, creating thousands of jobs and will do for decades to come.
Last week we marked the first anniversary of the Scottish Government’s Oil and Gas Strategy.
Working with the industry we have mapped out how it can continue to go from strength to strength, ensuring that the skills, training supply chain – both domestically and internationally are all in place to support its growth.
The Scottish Government is committed to the industry and its workforce.
Offshore safety is key to the longevity of the sector in Scotland.
Government, industry employees and agencies will continue to work together, to ensure we each play our role to continue to improve the safety and viability of a vital industry today, tomorrow and for the future.
Piper Alpha should never have happened.
Too high a price was paid for the safety lessons we have now learned and families continue to grieve for lost loved ones.
Our thoughts are with them as we mark this sad anniversary.
Their lasting legacy is a safer, though always hazardous, industry.
Fergus Ewing MSP is the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism