Piper Alpha judge to lead oil safety conference

Lord Cullen, who led the Piper Alpha investigation. Picture: PA
Lord Cullen, who led the Piper Alpha investigation. Picture: PA
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LORD Cullen, the judge whose landmark inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster heralded a new era in offshore safety, is to lead the list of prestigious speakers at a major offshore safety conference being held in Aberdeen this summer to mark the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

The three-day conference to mark the world’s worst offshore disaster, in which 167 men were killed, is being hosted by Oil and Gas UK, the pan-industry trade body.

The speakers will also include Judith Hackett, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, Charles Haddon-Cave QC, who led the independent review into the fatal Nimrod crash in Afghanistan in 2006 in which 14 service personnel were killed, and John Bresland, former chairman of the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Also due to address the conference, to be held from 18 to 20 June, are Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, Jane Cutler, chief executive of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, and Thad Allen, the US Coastguard incident commander for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A spokesman for Oil and Gas UK said: “The event will bring together people from across the global oil and gas industry to reflect on the lessons learnt from the tragedy, review how far offshore safety has evolved since and to reinforce industry commitment to continuous improvement.

“With Piper Alpha as a central theme, the conference will also explore broader safety issues and will feature a series of technical presentations run in parallel – each focusing on a different theme. These include safety management systems and control of work, major hazard management and safety technology, and emergency preparedness and response.”

Robert Paterson, Oil and Gas UK’s health and safety director, said: “Piper Alpha is still the world’s worst offshore disaster, claiming the lives of 167 men.

“The purpose of this conference is to mark the 25th anniversary of this tragedy by gathering together some of the world’s foremost experts in their field to not only reflect on the lessons we’ve learned in the intervening quarter of a century, but to openly challenge and debate how we stimulate the industry’s determination to continuously improve safety performance to ensure the next 25 years and beyond never see a repeat of this disaster.”

He added: “Our message is that Piper 25 will be open to everyone with an interest in safety – whether they have a direct interest in Piper Alpha itself or in offshore safety more generally. We expect around 700 people from all over the world to join us for what promises to be a very special event.”

A total of 165 oilmen working on the Piper platform and two rescuers were killed on 6 July, 1988, when a series of fires and explosions blew apart the North Sea installation. Lord Cullen’s groundbreaking report into the catastrophe swept aside the old prescriptive regime which had governed the industry and transformed offshore safety.