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Lest we forget

Written by Christopher Bird

Piper Alpha

Piper Alpha 30 years on

It was 6th July 1988 just around 22.00hrs when the Piper Alpha disaster started. I know as I had been in the industry just over 1 year and was getting ready to go offshore. It is difficult to believe it was over 30 years ago. At the weekend I watched the documentary, Piper Alpha, Fire in the Night produced in 2013 and the 2016 YouTube video Piper Alpha disaster 2016.

One comment stayed with me which was, “This was a significant event where 167 men lost their lives, the industry in the future will now be different due to this occurrence”

There is much change going on in our industry today. Apart from the huge upturn in 2012 in activity followed by the huge downturn and the lost of many jobs in 2016, many of the larger international companies are selling assets that are changing hands into the smaller independent operators. In addition, many of the assets are past their original design life and the UKCs is becoming a super mature basin which is on decline, so further job losses are inevitable over the next few decades.

This all sounds doom and gloom, however, there is optimism out there. We are finding new ways, new technologies, better engineering solutions to run these platforms for much longer. Under Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) there are a whole host of undeveloped discoveries to develop, new hubs to establish, along with technology and ‘know-how’ to export. There is a positive future for at least the next three to four decades for Upstream Oil and Gas in the UK.

However, I was reading the new HSE publication developed by ICOE and specifically chapter 2 written by Dame Judith Hackitt on ‘Lessons from Piper Alpha’. It was good to read this after the emotions of watching the documentaries as it did reinforce what we need to keep doing, especially considering the constant and accelerating change in our industry.

The first thing that made me think was the statement that “Real Leaders need to see beyond their company and businesses” and the requirement that “we must keep applying and adapting those lessons for the present and future” to honour the legacy of Piper Alpha.

The five key lessons that were highlighted in this chapter included

· We must maintain strong and visibly leadership. 

Maintain the safety of our people, the safety of our assets, the safety of the environment helps maintain the safety of our business and industry. Leadership is key

· Courage and capability to evolve

We must move forward positively, together and believe in a good future. It is not enough to just do the things right, but to do the right things. It is more than just competency it is about our capability and capacity to change for the better

· We must all play our part ensure we remain robust

Develop ourselves in our competencies, our knowledge, our behaviour and attitude so we can get better and better and even better

· Cooperation and collaboration is key

Sharing knowledge, working together beyond the boundaries of our companies and maintaining the right intentions and behaviour’s

· Applying and adapting those lessons for the present and the future

With many people retiring and leaving the industry. Embedding those lessons so they are not lost or forgotten is essential. Supporting industry meetings, initiatives and active mentoring. Remembering Piper Alpha, Lord Cullen recommendations and keeping those lessons alive is an imperative for the industry as it continues over the next three decades.

HSE is not an add on to our business activities, but an essential component of a leader and managers DNA. We must honour the legacy, keeping the lessons learned real and current applying them to our organisations and people for today and adapting them positively as our industry changes and matures in the future.

Author: Christopher Bird 11/07/2018

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