Piper Alpha disaster 36 years on

Piper Alpha disaster 36 years on

5 July 2024

RMT Press Office:

RMT will mark the 36th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster tomorrow, which killed 165 offshore workers and two seafarers.

This North Sea tragedy led to the Cullen Inquiry, which concluded in late 1990.
Before its report, the Thatcher Government introduced new safety regulations in 1989.
The disaster was caused by a flawed permit to work system. Workers injected condensate fluid into a pump, unaware a safety valve had been replaced with a non-leak-proof disk. The high-pressure fluid leaked, igniting a fire.
An initial explosion breached a weak firewall, causing further explosions and a catastrophic fireball that engulfed the platform on July 6, 1988.
In 1997, the UK offshore industry launched Step Change in Safety. Two years later, unions reported Shell for not complying with over 60 of Lord Cullen’s 106 recommendations.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Piper Alpha shows the dangers of poorly regulated, profit-driven operators. The loss of 167 workers led to crucial health and safety laws. As we mark this anniversary, RMT calls for a review of the offshore safety regime's effectiveness.
"With rising profits, energy security issues, and safety maintenance backlogs, we need a strong safety representative structure. Workers’ voices must be heard to honor the legacy of Piper Alpha victims and ensure North Sea safety today.
“We urge employers to allow workers to remember the 167 lost, especially in northeast Scotland.
"On this anniversary, we call on ministers to honour Piper Alpha’s victims by fostering continuous offshore safety improvements.”

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