With the anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster approaching, Chris Flint, the director of the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) energy division has written to all offshore oil and gas production operators, demanding more action be taken to prevent the accidental release of oil and gas in the North Sea.

Although progress has been made to reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases (HCRs), the HSE is concerned that they continue to occur, and more action should be taken to tackle them.

Operators will have until 20 July 2018 to respond to the HSE with their self-assessment on HCR risks along with a summary of their improvement activities. The self-assessment should include a review of each operator’s “process safety leadership” and an audit of their safety management systems against a recognised process safety management standard, as stated in the HSE’s letter. The HSE is committed to feeding back significant findings from the exercise to the industry later in the year.

The explosion that caused the Piper Alpha disaster was due to gas leaking from a pipe, inadequately closed off following maintenance work resulting in the deaths of 167 people. Flint said he would like to see operators reflect on the learning from incidents across both onshore and offshore process industries to identify where any improvements can be made.

The HSE letter also references the HSE’s revised loss of containment guidance and a new HCR prevention document produced by the Step Change in Safety organisation. Both the guidance and prevention document were launched on 8 March 2018 to an audience of over 50 industry leaders. The HSE has endorsed the sources as good practice to refer to.