Piper Alpha


This Saturday will mark the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha Disaster, which claimed the lives of 167 people, 5 of whom were from Inverclyde.

Piper Alpha was one of those events where you remember exactly where you were, and what you were doing at the time it happened.

I was in Ontario, Canada visiting relatives, watching the global tragedy unfold. During that visit I met with an expat from Greenock whose brother-in-law was one of the victims.

These personal memories of the disaster returned, when I attended a reception in parliament last week, along with the First Minister Alex Salmond, to remember the events of 6th July 1988.

The reception acknowledged the improvements made in health and safety in the oil industry since that fateful night. The operators, the trade unions and the health and safety executive are rightly praised for their crucial role they have played in this.

However, the experts and health and safety professionals from across the country who attended the reception last week, acknowledged that with oil in the marginal fields now more difficult to extract and the rigs themselves beyond their design life, this presents significant challenges that must be addressed.

The images of the oil rig engulfed in flames and the emotional testimonies that will be broadcast in conjunction with the anniversary I’m sure will provide the motivation for a step change to further improve health and safety standards to ensure that we avoid another Piper Alpha.