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Health Safety & Environment:
The Cullen Report—Offshore Safety Case

On 6 July 1988, gas condensate ignited on Occidental Petroleum’s Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea. In a brief 22 minutes, 167 of the 229 people onboard were killed in what is characterized as the most deadly disaster in offshore oil industry history.

Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, one of Scotland’s most-respected jurists, led the public inquiry. Originally charged with determining what happened on Piper Alpha, Lord Cullen proactively undertook to develop recommendations to prevent recurrence of such a disaster. Wisely rejecting a prescriptive approach, he developed comprehensive objectives and made 106 specific recommendations to initiate a new and improved safety regime.

Ultimately, anyone wishing to operate a fixed or mobile installation offshore UK was obliged to submit a Safety Case. These are documents providing full details for managing Health, Safety and Environment issues. Because a goal-setting approach was used, operators are able to choose the best methods available to achieve the objective. As a result, reportable offshore industry accidents had declined more than 75% by 2001.

Most importantly, Lord Cullen’s report reassured all stakeholders—the oil industry, the UK Government and its citizens—that offshore oil and gas operations could be conducted safely if a rational, goal-oriented approach were implemented, together with effective application of technology and stringent inspection procedures.


For his exceptional attention to detail, perseverance, foresight and integrity that has resulted in a “step-change” in offshore safety performance, the Offshore Energy Center recognizes:

The Right Honorable Lord Cullen of Whitekirk