The Weekly Reflektion 07/2021

Learning from Major Accidents is the main focus for Reflekt, and we have used the Piper Alpha disaster 6th July 1988 in several Reflektions. This time we have the perspective of one of the survivors.

If you had survived a major accident what would you recommend to prevent it happening again?

Piper Alpha

Steve Rae is the Executive Director for UK Step Change in Safety. He was on board Piper Alpha on 6th July 1988 and experienced firsthand the horror of a Major Accident. Steve survived by jumping into the sea before the fires and explosions destroyed the platform.

Steve gave the Trevor Kletz lecture at the Institution of Chemical Engineering Hazards30 conference in November 2020. He talked about being part of the Piper Alpha team, his work on the platform, the initial explosion, the fear and uncertainty about what was happening and the decisions he made that led him to escape from the burning areas and eventually jump into the sea. Steve also addressed the rescue and recovery, the feeling of relief when he realized he had survived and the memories of lost colleagues and friends. He reflected over how near he was to being one of the fatalities. Listening to his story gave us inspiration on keeping up our focus on prevention of Major Accidents.

Steve did not just tell the story of his survival of Piper Alpha. Steve talked about his reflections on Piper Alpha and presented some of the key issues, his 6 Cs, that he believed are important for Major Accident prevention. Our Reflektion this week provides our own thoughts on the 6 Cs that Steve presented.

Commitment – Whatever you want to do and however you want to do it, absence of commitment, will lead to you falling at the first hurdle.

Change Management – It is likely that there will be changes to both your installation and your organisation in the future. Managing these changes safely and effectively is essential.

Control of Work – When you are working with hazardous materials in hazardous locations you need to have discipline and control of what you are doing.

Competence – You need to have people with the right experience, the right knowledge and you need to create an environment where they are utilized effectively

Complacency – You cannot be complacent. You just can’t be.

Communication – You need to have clear and concise communication both written and verbal. You need to be good at both transmission and reception. You need to create an environment where people can and will communicate effectively.

Steve emphasized that these 6 Cs were not primarily intended to be input into the mechanics of the systems for Major Accident prevention. The 6 Cs were intended to be vehicles for influencing behaviours and of course organisational culture. His message at the lecture was ‘Absence of these 6-Cs will impact your Safety Culture’.

What sort of culture do you want in your organisation and how are you going to achieve this? Listening to someone that has actually experienced a Major Accident and has reflected over that experience may be a good place to start.

Reflekt will be organising a Lunch and Learn on 18th February. The theme for the lunch and learn will be resilience and it will be held on Teams. Check out our web site  and let us know if you would like to participate. Link to seminaret  

Reflekt AS