Development of safety systems offshore oi and gas

The development of formal safety management systems in the offshore oil and gas industry can be said to have started with the Piper Alpha catastrophe that occurred in 1988. Of course, companies working offshore had had safety programs before that time, but Piper Alpha can be viewed as being the starting point for the development of formal Safety Management Systems for offshore operations — world wide. .

Following the accident, an investigation was conducted by a committee headed by the Scottish High Court judge, Lord Cullen. The committee’s report was highly critical of the safety programs that had been in place in North Sea facilities prior to the accident.

In response to the Cullen report the offshore industry took two different tracks, as illustrated in the drawing at the top of this page. Companies operating in the North Sea (and, later on, other areas of the world such as Australia) continued with the safety case approach, as shown in the bottom track of the sketch, but radically improved the thoroughness and quality of the documents and put in place more stringent measures to ensure that the recommended measures were actually implemented.

In the United States (principally the Gulf of Mexico) the response to the Piper Alpha incident was equally vigorous, but followed a different path. The American Petroleum Institute (API) developed their Recommended Practice 75 which recommended that offshore facilities develop a Safety and Environmental Program (SEMP). Like a safety case, RP 75 is non-prescriptive. However, it makes extensive reference to industry standards (mostly from the American Petroleum Institute), and so is perceived as being considerably more prescriptive then the safety case approach. Nor does RP 75 require that a formal assessment of acceptable risk (ALARP) be determined.

Articles and safety moments to do with the offshore oil and gas business are shown below.

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