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STUC Conference ’18 ‘Don’t forget Piper Alpha’s lessons’

THE lessons of the Piper Alpha disaster are being forgotten 30 years on, the Scottish TUC Congress heard yesterday.

An explosion and oil and gas fires on the North Sea drilling platform claimed 167 lives on July 6 1988.

The deaths led to the establishment of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee trade union (Oilc), which is now a section of transport union RMT.

At congress yesterday, delegates endorsed a call for a public inquiry into the safety of helicopters transporting workers to and from oil platforms in the North Sea.

Super Puma aircraft have been grounded after a series of fatal accidents since 2009. The incidents caused 33 deaths.

RMT delegate and offshore worker Robert Wynoss said the motion was about the ability of workers to “travel to work in the confidence they might get back alive.”

“If this aircraft was involved in any kind of public service, it would have been grounded a long time ago,” he said.

The motion warned that offshore workers’ safety was “under increasing pressure” from bosses.

Most platforms have moved to three-week-on, three-week-off shift patterns since the oil downturn of 2014, meaning workers frequently work 21 consecutive days.

Unite delegate Agnes Tolmie said: “These [helicopter] accidents were blamed on gearbox problems.

“Our members have made it absolutely clear that they have lost confidence in the helicopter and that confidence is never going to return ever, ever, ever.

“Conference, 30 years ago in 1988, my friend Sally, her husband went down … in Piper Alpha — Sally had a very young family at the time.

“We should be absolutely clear as a movement we do not want to see any repetition of that.”

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