The investigation into the causes of the explosion on the Piper Alpha Platform on the 6th July 1988 exposed serious shortcomings in the British offshore safety regime. In particular, the capacity of the inspectors employed by the Department of Energy's Petroleum Engineering Department to ensure compliance of offshore installations with statutory safety requirements was found to be wholly inadequate.
The safety case procedure recommended by Lord Cullen in the report following his Enquiry, and implemented in the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 1992, represents a wholly different approach to the question of safety on offshore installations. The onus of ensuring that their installations are designed and operated safely and in compliance with the relevant statutory requirements is placed upon the operators themselves. They have, by way of detailed safety cases, to satisfy the Health and Safety Executive that they are meeting these requirements. The Regulations also impose upon operators continuing obligations to comply with the safety cases that they have submitted, to alter them so as to reflect changes in their operations and to submit revised safety cases every three years. Acceptance of a safety case by the Health and Safety Executive and the operator's subsequent compliance with it are pre-requisites of his being allowed to continue with his operations.