In July 2021, commemorations will be held to mark the 33 years since the 1988 Piper Alpha tragedy in the UK sector of the North Sea where 167 oil field workers lost their lives. Without question, the incident was a watershed event for the international oil and gas industry not simply because of the immediate toll in human lives lost, but also in terms of the devasting aftermath endured by countless friends, families and loved ones whose lives were forever changed. The tragedy also served to illustrate just how poorly the oil and gas industry really understood and managed those operating risks that possessed the potential for catastrophic loss, both in terms of business cost and overall reputational impact.

In the wake of the public enquiry that followed and chaired by Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, one of the principal recommendations required that the international oil and gas industry do a much better job in determining both its major hazards (i.e. major operating risks) and also in creating the necessary operating conditions to demonstrate that such things were being well managed. The objective being to provide tangible assurance that the likelihood of the industry ever incurring such a calamitous event again in the future had been reduced to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

In taking its responsibilities very seriously, the international oil and gas industry responded by raising the profile of the management of Health, Safety and the Environment (HSE) across the wide spectrum of its global operations. By the mid-nineties, the industry had implemented comprehensive and structured systems of work within the framework of purposely built HSE Management Systems using templates designed and developed for the industry via the International Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP)*.

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