The letter by Terry Brotherstone (24 June) highlighting the Lives in the Oil Industry collection at University of Aberdeen, evoked many memories for me as a former North Sea oil worker.
I started working offshore in 1989, the year after the Piper Alpha disaster, and that culture of fear was a cloying and ever-present reminder that your life offshore was never your own. Listening to Hugo Manson’s interview with Bob Ballantyne and his escape from Piper some years ago was a near traumatic event in itself.
Yet, as the next generation of offshore workers come through, blessed by increasingly enlightened attitudes to safety, practices and technology, all of which make their lives safer by the day, I still always recommend as a “must read” Stephen McGinty’s book Fire in the Night: The Piper Alpha Disaster.
I do so in part to ensure that those who were involved will never be forgotten, but also to ensure that the many gains we have made will also not be forgotten.
After nearly 25 years in the oil and gas industry, it is now my industrial home, it is my culture and it is my language. For me, it is as much a life experience as our other – now gone – great industries such as steelworks, mining and shipbuilding.
In the end, the culture of fear will always have the potential to return. The challenge we all face in industry, in government and in regulation is to remember that complacency is never an option.