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The Safety 30 Conference and Exhibition Commemorating Piper Alpha – lessons learned, actions required and the relevance of
Encompass ICOE’s eCompendium “Offshore Oil and Gas Operations – Environment, Health & Safety Performance Management”

"Encompassing The Future" eCompendium

What you will get

Your free trial gives you access to “Overview - Encompassing the Future, Offshore Oil and Gas Operations, Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Performance Management” for 90 days. This 30-page document provides additional and condensed insight into the 1,600-page eCompendium content.

The Past

The Piper Alpha oil and gas production platform operated by The Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd was located about 120 miles north-east of Aberdeen in the North Sea. It was connected by a 128-mile-long pipeline to the Flotta Oil Terminal in Orkney. Originally designed to export production from the Piper Oilfield, the platform latterly also served as a gathering point for hydrocarbons from the Claymore and Tartan oilfields, through two incoming pipelines.

The Piper Alpha disaster began with the explosion of escaping hydrocarbon fluids at 22.00hrs on the 6th July 1988, culminating in a final massive explosion at 22.30hrs. 167 people were killed. 61 people survived by jumping into the sea, to be picked up by rescue craft.

In the subsequent inquiry chaired by Lord Cullen, it was found that many factors contributed to the initiation and scale of the disaster, including lack of management oversight, procedural failings, platform and plant design failures, poor emergency response preparedness and execution, and human factors. And crucially, the Piper Alpha fire was fed with fuel issuing from the Claymore and Tartan pipelines, despite the visibility of the Piper Alpha explosions and fire. Company rules prohibited unauthorised shutting down of these pipelines.

The Piper Alpha disaster resulted from an autocratic, ill-judged and disorganised management culture.

Lord Cullen advocated many changes, including responsibility for the enforcement of safety being removed from the then Department of Energy and transferred to the Health and Safety Executive, with transparency and justification of operations being secured via the requirement to submit safety cases according to the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 1992, subsequently augmented by the European Offshore Safety Directive.

The Present

The Safety 30 Conference and Exhibition Aberdeen 2018, Piper Alpha Legacy: Securing a Safer Future, gives insight into current safety management perceptions held by industry and related experts. This paper concentrates on Lord Cullen’s thoughts and recommendations.

In his opening address entitled “Signs of Danger”, Lord Cullen began by quoting Sir Brian Appleton, Technical Adviser to the Piper Alpha inquiry,

“Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us in work. It is a matter of life and death. It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines whether the people we work with live or die.”

While lessons were learned from Piper Alpha and applied, Lord Cullen expressed concern that more needs to be done, particularly with regard to recurring factors that have been shown to contribute to disasters, including the Columbia Space Shuttle, Piper Alpha, Kings Cross, Texas City Oil Refinery, Buncefield , Macondo and Sellafield’s THORP; recurring factors that are probably still present. Lord Cullen highlighted the following challenging factors:

  • Warning signs are not recognised or effectively acted on – may be treated as being normal and under control
  • Underlying organisational factors are not recognised or solved
  • Results of investigations are not properly embedded in the way work is done
  • Previous experience is ignored
  • Failures at all levels – in the board room and workplace
  • Lack of ownership of relevant knowledge and recommendations
  • Casual use of and incomplete safety management processes – e.g. permit to work
  • Qualitative opinion used rather than properly executed risk management studies
  • Complacency in senior management with regard to operating procedures and infrastructure design
  • Continuity of production an endemic driver (a financial driver)
  • Lack of intellectual curiosity, an essential factor in a solid safety culture
  • Absence of a questioning attitude
  • Lack of relevant analytical skills
  • And lastly, lack of “an absorbing concern with safety”

The Future

What contribution can Encompass ICOE’s eCompendium “Offshore Oil and Gas Operations – Environment, Health & Safety Performance Management” make to offshore safety management?

The fundamental requirement for the management of safety in hazardous industries is an inspired and confident leadership fostering a liberal management culture, culminating in understanding-based, well-defined and wholly owned processes, satisfying – if not exceeding – regulatory requirements. Furthermore, in the real world, challenges usually require multidisciplinary solutions based on shared understanding. This is very true of Offshore EHS (HSE) Management. While much progress has been made since Piper Alpha, given the need for “an absorbing concern with safety”, what still needs to be done? How can use of the eCompendium help individuals, regulators and companies address and answer this question with actions? The answer lies in the accessibility provided to offshore EHS (HSE) focused content written by experts, telling not just how it was, but how it is and how it should be. This is a one-stop starting point for the assessment of the level of understanding of self, authority and company. The resource fosters both individual and multidisciplinary team engagement, so supporting the operation of a liberal, informed management culture.

The eCompendium: (challenges addressed)

  • is multi-disciplinary in content  – a one-stop source of understanding, produced by 56 expert authors covering 10 disciplines in 1600 pages of content (access fosters intellectual curiosity, helps develop analytical skills)
  • is digitally available, enabling efficient use of precious personal and company time in accessing it – read and interact on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone (accommodates leaner budgets, supports better and more efficient sharing of understanding)
  • places much emphasis on the role of leadership (inhibits complacency and autocratic styles of management)
  • strives to present understanding, not just knowledge, empowering proper risk management (supports intellectual curiosity)
  • enables company-wide examination of one’s self and one’s organisation approach to safety (and environment and health) management (stimulates critical appraisals)
  • is a reference/discussion-stimulating learning-and-sharing tool (provides a liberal safety culture support tool)
  • will produce content that contributes to corporate memory and learning resources (helps prevent previous experience being ignored)
  • offers companies and regulators the opportunity to continue to contribute to the eCompendium and share their new understanding (enables sharing across the offshore industry)
  • will be kept up-to-date (identifies relevant new understanding, providing constant intellectual stimulus)
  • enjoys the freedom to express opinion (safety top priority)
  • is supported in its use by Encompass ICOE (ease of assimilation by busy people)

By stimulating incisive, informed discussion and shared learning, Encompass ICOE’s eCompendium serves as a tool that can help enable individuals, regulators and companies to develop and maintain the shared HSE responsibility that is at the heart of a liberal company safety culture. And in the process, address the challenges raised by Lord Cullen.

BGDS 9/7/18

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