Piper Alpha: 30 years on, we still learn

Anna-Helene Petitt is UK sales manager for Tendeka
Anna-Helene Petitt is UK sales manager for Tendeka

Thirty years on as we remember the Piper Alpha disaster and the 167 lives that were lost, it is a poignant time to recognise the positive safety changes in the years since and how these principles need to be passed from one generation to the next.

The Lord Cullen investigation recommended more than 100 changes and led to the adoption of the Offshore Installations Safety Case Regulations in 1992. These key measures better assured the reduction in risk faced by workers and the environment around an asset.

The Piper disaster happened just before I was born. I remember gazing at the statue in Aberdeen’s Hazlehead Park and it is only now after working in the oil industry that I really understand the impact that the horrific incident had.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is now prominent in all aspects of the industry whether it be in offshore regulations, in the workshop or even with tenders.
As an industry, we need to ensure that experience is transferred to the future generations.

We must not lose the knowledge and expertise as the new generation becomes the decision-makers of tomorrow. We must, however, also be open to challenging convention and allow discussion to find better ways of working.

At the recent Safety 30 conference, Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie underlined that the way operations function today are shaped as a result of Piper Alpha and stressed that the industry must continue to maintain a relentless focus on safe operations.

Ms Michie said: “We must think the unthinkable continually in our industry as even though there was an appreciation of major accident hazards and risks at the time of Piper Alpha, the scale of the incident that unfolded was unimaginable.

“Quite rightly, it represented a watershed moment for health and safety in our industry.”

Even though I have not been in the oil industry long-term, I have seen how environmental protection is paramount. HSE requirements are omnipresent in every part of the industry; a company must comply in health and safety as well as due diligence in order to operate.

At Tendeka, our core values are safety, people, performance, integrity and innovation. A combination of these is needed for oil and gas firms to operate effectively and responsibly.

There is no doubt that the industry standards have radically altered since Piper Alpha with safety a core value of most companies. However, we must ensure that we do not become complacent as a new generation takes the reins.

Anna-Helene Petitt, UK sales manager, Tendeka

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