Piper Alpha

On the 6th of July 1988, Piper Alpha was the site of the greatest offshore oil and gas rig disaster in history, impacting 10% of the worlds oil and gas production, and costing £200 million in financial losses. More importantly, 167 lives were lost in a disaster that not only had been predicted, could have been avoided.

In this workshop we will explore how differing priorities, ineffective communication and poor oversight culminated in a horrific incident that was easily avoidable. We are guided through this journey by Dick and Bob, two survivors of the Piper Alpha, who embody not only the human dimension at play in these events, but also the long reaching consequences of that day.

Responsibility | Communication | Emergency Response | Permit to Work


BOB: The permit was just left on a desk?

DICK: Aye. Says everything about how well the system worked. So they had a couple of permits kicking around. One of them in the control room said that Pump A was isolated, and the other one in the safety office said that work on the relief valve was suspended.

DICK: They went after one of the valve technicians, didn’t they?

BOB: Well that would be most convenient wouldn’t it? The company blames the dead man. Problem solved.

DICK: And it would have been fine if the rest of the equipment worked properly.

BOB: What a surprise it didn’t! There was a huge amount of maintenance and replacement work going on and all the while they’re still producing oil at a fantastic rate. The platform should have been shut down.

DICK: They wouldn’t do that – it was producing ten per cent of the UK’s oil.