INCIDENT

Piper Alpha: A process hazard analysis of the human factor

Operator and supervisor errors escalated a process safety incident into a disaster. Could people better trained in oil and gas safety procedures have prevented it, or stopped the process safety incident once the fire stated?

On the night of July 6, 1988, five operators were in the control room on Piper Alpha. That was the minimum compliment needed to operate the platform. Investigations after the disaster discovered that they had all been promoted one level above their normal position and were considered less experienced than the longer-term men that normally ran the platform.

This was not a company that was known for a strong process safety culture. Meetings and briefings on the platform did not begin with a safety minute. Maintaining production was driven harder than maintaining a safe working environment.

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