A SCOT who survived Piper Alpha – the world’s worst offshore disaster – has been appointed to lead the UK oil and gas industry’s safety body.

Steve Rae, who is operations manager for Well-Safe Solutions, will start work as executive director of Step Change in Safety in July.

A total of 167 men died in the 1988 disaster and Rae was one of 61 who survived.

He told The Chemical Engineer magazine last year that he counted himself among the “very fortunate 61 who survived … and as such have made it my duty to ensure that the legacy of the disaster continues to be re-visited, referenced and shared whenever possible with all those connected to, and, directly employed in the oil and gas industry”.

Rae, who has been involved with Step Change in Safety since 2007, said his new role was an opportunity to shape the “future safety culture” of the industry.

He said: “Words cannot express how honoured I feel to have been appointed as the executive director of Step Change in Safety.

“For me, the role presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a significant part in shaping the future safety culture in our industry. Those who know me personally, or have heard me talk, will appreciate how much this means to me.”

The born-and-bred Aberdonian has spent more than 35 years working in the industry and is held in high regard within the global oil and gas community.

His career started as an offshore technician in the early 1980s, and he worked on many North Sea installations before Piper Alpha.

Rae’s escape and survival from the platform left him with an unquenchable desire to make a positive change in the safety culture across the industry.

“Those that survived [Piper] did so because they acted on their instinct, they took decisions for themselves and chose to disregard the emergency training they had been expected to follow,” he told the magazine. “Luck was also in play for many of us survivors.

“I’d also like to think that my life, since the disaster, has turned out to be relatively normal ... However, in the early days after Piper, I often thought ‘how can I avoid being treated as a victim?’, which is often the case for anyone who survives a major disaster.

“At the same time, I had come to realise that many of the survivors were so traumatised that they were unable to function let alone return to a normal way of life.”

Rae returned to work six months after Piper Alpha and, some years later, said he gained a position of “some influence”.

He said: “I saw this as my opportunity to ‘give back’ and use it to share my thoughts and learnings from Piper and to articulate my views on where the offshore industry needs to be, and go, with regard to health and safety.

“Ultimately, I wanted to do everything within my power to avoid a reoccurance of such disasters.”

Bob Fennell, member of the Step Change in Safety board and co-chair of the leadership team welcomed the appointment: “For me, Steve’s appointment was the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make as he is perfect for the role.

“He has an established industry presence and is a great orator and business leader.

“Most importantly, Steve genuinely wants to make the UK oil and gas industry a safer place to work for its workforce.”

Fellow board member and leadership team co-chair, Craig Wiggins, added: “To have recruited a person of Steve’s industry standing is a major success for Step Change in Safety.”