Piper Alpha disaster-Incident

On July 6, 1988, a series of catastrophic explosions and fires destroyed the platform. Of the 226 people on the platform at the time of the event, 165 died along with two emergency response personnel during a rescue attempt. The platform was totally destroyed.
Investigation was hindered by a lack of physical evidence. Based upon eyewitness accounts it was concluded that a release of light hydrocarbon occurred when a pump was restarted after having been prepared for maintenance. Unknown to the workers starting the pump, a relief valve in the pump discharge had been removed for maintenance. A blank had been loosely installed in place of the relief valve at a location which was not readily visible from the pump vicinity. When the pump was started this blank leaked, producing a flammable cloud, which subsequently found an ignition source. The pump was started at about 10 PM, and by 1 AM, three hours later, the platform had been entirely destroyed and most of its occupants had been killed.
As would be expected in a disaster of this magnitude, the investigation identified many root causes related to design operation, safety culture, emergency response, and training. Two issues are highlighted below which are particularly relevant to all oil and gas plant operators.

What went wrong:
·         In adequate maintenance and safety procedures.
·         Poor communication between operators.
·         Lock out/Tag out are not properly followed.
·         Failure to comply permit to work system.


Working with a Permit to Work:
·         Strict adherence to the requirements of the Permit to Work.
·         No alterations to the Permit to Work after issuance.
·         Displayed in the workplace.
·         Cancelled when changes to the agreed Safe Systems of Work are needed.
·         Returned to permit issuer on task completion or when time limit is reached.
·         Lost Permits to be reported to permit issuer immediately.
·         Supervisor/ Management to monitor implementation of permit systems at all times.

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