Over the weekend, as Americans were celebrating their
nations independence, a far more somber remberance took
place in Scotland. July 6th marked the 25th anniversary of the
worst offshore disaster of all time.
On July 6, 1988, an explosion ripped through the North Sea oil
rig Piper Alpha, and the resulting oil and gas fires, which
destroyed the platform, also took the lives of 167 of the 228
men working that day. Saturday, a remembrance service took
place in an Aberdeen park, which included a roll call of those
who lost their lives in the disaster.
The events on Saturday were not the only ceremonies to call
attention to the Piper Alpha tragedy. Members of the
Scottish Parliament, including Scotland's First Minister,
gathered on June 26 to mark the anniversary of the
The Scottish Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
(IOSH) held the parliamentary reception at Holyrood not only to
commemorate the 167 men who lost their lives, but also to point
out a number of present challenges to the safe extraction of
North Sea oil and gas. These challenges include aging
infrastructur; regulatory questions about new and emerging
energy technologies; and the exploration of deeper, less
"The Piper Alpha disaster was a tragedy which not only claimed
167 lives, but left physical and emotional scars which endure
to this day for those who survived the events of that terrible
night, said Scottish First Minister Alex
Salmond. "It was also an event which has brought about
and huge improvements
to the way Scotland's offshore industry treats the
health and safety of its workers. The greatest tribute we can
all collectively pay to the 167 people who lost their lives is
never to lose sight of how important this issue is, and to
continue to strive together to make sure each and every worker
who goes offshore is able to come home safely by making safety
the industry's first priority."
Piper Alpha is the worst offshore disaster in UK history. Along
with cultural, system, procedural, communication and leadership
failures, inherent design failures were a contributing factor,
found the subsequent inquiry conducted by Lord Cullen.
Speaking at the parliamentary reception, Brian Appleton, one of
three assessors in the Cullen Inquiry, said, "I have heard it
said that the Inquiry transformed the approach to safety
offshore. I don't accept that. What we did was point out what
we believed was the right way forward, a different way forward.
The safety management was transformed not by the inquiry but by
the operators and the Health and Safety Executive working
together in the direction we had proposed. Those are the
organizations which have transformed offshore safety.