In 1988 the world was shocked when the Piper Alpha Disaster, which remains the worst oil and gas accident in the history of the industry, occurred in the North Sea of the coast of Aberdeen. On the 25th Anniversary ten years ago, a remembrance service was held in the memorial garden of Hazelhead Park, Aberdeen. Survivors, senior figures from the oil and gas industry, politicians, but most importantly, relatives of the victims gathered round to pay tribute.
The memorial sculpture depicts offshore workers and stands as a place of remembrance and a poignant reminder of the lessons learned from the disaster.
Piper Alpha is an oil field situated approximately 120 miles of the coast of Aberdeen. The rig was built in 1975 and produced around 10% of oil and gas production in the North Sea i.e. approximately 3,000 barrels of oil every day.
The accident occurred on 6th July 1988 at around 10pm. Gas began to leak from a faulty pump and was then ignited which caused an explosion. Further explosions were caused by ruptures in the pipelines connecting Piper Alpha to the surrounding platforms resulting in a colossal fire of around 700 degrees Celsius which quickly spread through the platform.
In just two short hours, 167 offshore workers had died. Of the 167, around 30 bodies were never recovered. Many men were forced to jump from the 175-foot helicopter deck into the sea, which resulted in approximately 61 men surviving. In terms of the men perished, it was the worst disaster in the history of the oil and gas industry and remains so to this day.
As a result of the disaster, officials chaired by Scottish Judge William Cullen prepared a report on offshore installation safety regulations. The report concluded in 1990 that the platform operator, Occidental Petroleum was guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures. No criminal charges have ever been brought against the company.
The Cullen Report made approximately 106 recommendations for safety changes and regulations in the spier of North Sea oil and gas. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was tasked with implementing the key recommendations, namely the introduction of regulations requiring operators and owners, commonly known as the Duty Holder, of every mobile and fixed installation operating in UK waters to submit a safety case for acceptance to the HSE.
The Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations were signed into statute in 1992. They require the Duty Holder to provide details of Health and Safety management, and Hazard Control Systems on the installation, including identifying risks and minimising them as far as is reasonably practicable, and to make provision for safe evacuation and rescue.
By November 1995, every installation in UK waters had received confirmation from the HSE that their safety case had been accepted. This was because of operators spending approximately one billion pounds to upgrade management systems and various other safety mechanisms.
Further legislation was passed in the 1990s as a direct result of the Piper Alpha incident. The Cullen Report had paved the way for a goal setting and progressive model for safety legislation in the North Sea oil and gas fields. The traditional prescriptive approach that had led to the Piper Alpha incident had been superseded.
Whilst Piper Alpha happened some 35 years ago, it is important to remember and to reflect on the vastly significant changes in safety that it brought about. Whilst the accident itself took all but 22 minutes to occur, its effects are still being felt today across the world.
Despite the important safety changes Piper Alpha brought about, that still does not preclude accidents from occurring in the oil and gas sector. At Calio Claims, we recognise that working in oil and gas can still be extremely dangerous.
Such accidents can have devastating consequences for both you and your family. Accidents can occur both in the upstream and downstream sectors. If you have been injured whilst working in the oil and gas sector, you should seek the advice of our specialist Lawyers at Calio Claims which have experience in handling claims of this nature in Scotland.
For a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a member of our team, call us today on 0800 988 8082, or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you right away.