News
05.07.13

6 JULY - 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PIPER ALPHA DISASTER IN WHICH 167 WORKERS LOST THEIR LIVES

On 6 July 1988, Piper Alpha, an oil production platform operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd in the North Sea exploded and the resulting oil and gas fires killed 167 men; with only 61 survivors. The death toll included two crewmen from the standby vessel MV Sandhaven who were killed when an explosion on the platform destroyed their fast rescue craft.  

At the time of the disaster, the platform accounted for approximately ten per cent of North Sea oil and gas production, and it was the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost and industry impact.

Despite the horrendous loss of life, no criminal charges were ever brought against Occidental, the operator of the Piper Alpha; notwithstanding that the Cullen Inquiry found Occidental, guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures.

Cullen made 106 recommendations for changes to North Sea safety procedures, all of which were accepted by industry. "Most significant of these recommendations was that the responsibility for enforcing safety in the North Sea should be moved from the Department of Energy to the Health and Safety Executive, as having both production and safety overseen by the same agency was a conflict of interest."

The Cullen report has also used to develop Australia's occupational health and safety regulations in the offshore oil and gas industry. Interestingly the most significant recommendation regarding the separation of powers was not adopted in Australia and the Minister for Resources who issues the permits for production also overseas our safety regulator NOPSEMA.

The offshore oil and gas industry is still an inherently dangerous industry as witnessed last year with the 2 deaths on the Stena Clyde in Bass Strait. The union movement is proposing to hold commemorative events in Melbourne and Perth on Tuesday 27 August 2013 to mark the first anniversary of the deaths on board the Stena Clyde. Could Members please advise their availability to attend on the 27 August 2013; presumably the commemorative event will coincided to commence following the monthly stop work meetings. More details will follow once event details are confirmed.