Piper Alpha disaster

Safety on North Sea oil platforms is being compromised because oil workers are scared to speak out about negligence for fear of being sacked, attendees of a Pipa Alpha anniversary conference are expected to be told on Tuesday.

The RMT union will discuss safety issues related to North Sea oil platforms during the Piper 25 conference, to be held from 18 – 20 June 2013, reported the Guardian.

The conference, organised by Oil & Gas UK, the trade association for the UK offshore oil and gas industry, marks the 25th anniversary of Piper Alpha disaster.

During the conference, RMT union regional organiser, Jake Molloy, will suggest that the government re-instate the specialist offshore safety division it set up after the Piper Alpha accident and warn that its closure would be detrimental.

The conference is expected to bring together people from across the oil and gas industry to share their views on the lessons learnt from the tragedy and review how far offshore safety has evolved.

The RMT told the Guardian that even safety representatives do not have the authority to stop operations, as they do in Norway, which has a better safety record.

Lord Cullen, who chaired the public inquiry into the disaster, will be the keynote speaker.

Cullen’s report made 106 recommendations which have transformed the way safety is managed offshore.

"The RMT union will discuss safety issues related to North Sea oil platforms during the Piper 25 conference."

In its latest annual health and safety report, Oil & Gas UK said that the number of reportable oil and gas releases in the last three years has dropped by 48%.

Molloy was quoted by the publication as saying: "Overall safety in the North Sea has improved since Piper Alpha but I have got two safety representatives in my office now saying they cannot do what they are meant to."

"You can have all the statistics and the technology in place but it does not make a blind bit of difference if people are under pressure, being bullied, or just disengaged," Molloy added.

Molloy further noted that employers are scared of losing contracts, as oil firms have subcontracted almost all North Sea work to third-party contractors.

Commenting on the dismantling of the offshore safety division inside the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Molloy said: "HSE says this restructuring will make no difference but I remain to be convinced, as does the rest of the trade union movement in Scotland. We are also worried that the role of the HSE is being diluted."

An Oil & Gas UK spokesman told the Guardian: "The UK oil and gas industry places a major focus on engaging the workforce in safety issues because evidence shows that the involvement of workers is important in ensuring continuous improvement in this area."

Image: The Piper Alpha disaster remains a constant safety reminder to the offshore industry.