“No accidents, no harm to people, and no damage to the environment” that was the safety motto for BP in 2005. The same year, the BP Texas City refinery exploded resulting in 15 deaths and more than 170 injuries. At the time, it was one of the most serious U.S. workplace disasters of the past two decades.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents, promptly began an accident investigation that is ongoing. On August 17, 2005, the CSB issued an urgent safety recommendation to the BP Global Executive Board of Directors that it commission an independent panel to assess and report on the effectiveness of BP North America’s corporate oversight of safety management systems at its refineries and its corporate safety culture. In making its urgent recommendation, the CSB noted that the BP Texas City refinery had experienced two other fatal safety incidents in 2004, a major process-related hydrogen fire on July 28, 2005 (after the March explosion), and another serious incident on August 10, 2005.
James Baker was chaired the independent panel that became known as the “Baker Panel.” He has served in senior government positions under three United States presidents- under George Bush, Sec. of State; under Reagan, Sec. of Treasury; under Ford, Sec. of Commerce.
The Baker Panel issued its report in 2007. Here are some of its findings:
The panel found that BP did a decent job on personal safety (slips & falls), but not with process safety (maintenance, equipment—things that lead to huge catastrophes).
BP did not provide effective process safety leadership and has not adequately established process safety as a core value.
BP mistakenly interpreted improving personal injury rates as an indication of acceptable process safety performance at its U.S. refineries.
Process safety leadership appeared to have suffered as a result of high
turnover of refinery plant managers.
BP did not effectively incorporate process safety into management decision-making.
BP tended to have a short-term focus, and its decentralized management system and entrepreneurial culture have delegated substantial discretion to U.S. refinery plant managers without clearly defining process safety expectations, responsibilities, or accountabilities.
The Panel found instances of a lack of operating discipline, toleration of serious deviations from safe operating practices, and apparent complacency toward serious process safety risks at each refinery.
BP’s corporate safety management system does not ensure timely compliance with internal process safety standards and programs at BP’s five U.S. refineries. This finding relates to several areas that are addressed by BP internal standards: rupture disks under relief valves; equipment inspections; critical alarms and emergency shut-down devices; area electrical classification; and near miss investigations.
BP’s corporate safety management system does not ensure timely implementation of external good engineering practices that support and could improve process safety performance at BP’s five U.S. refineries.
Many of the process safety deficiencies are not new but were identifiable to BP based upon lessons from previous process safety incidents, including process incidents that occurred at BP’s facility in Grangemouth, Scotland in 2000.
The Panel also believes that BP has an incomplete picture of process safety performance at its U.S. refineries because BP’s process safety management system likely results in underreporting of incidents and near miss.
As investigators examine what really happened at the Deepwater Horizon floating platform, this report will provide clues to the BP decision-making process. On the surface, it doesn’t appear that BP learned much from this report. We know that they eventually were fined $137 million—the heaviest workplace safety fines in U.S. history.
What does this mean to Pensacola? The patterns never change. With the clean-up of the beach, more emphasis is placed on the safety of the clean-up workers (suits, gloves, boots) than on the people sunbathing next to them.
The overall clean-up process is tied too much to making the beach look nice today and forgetting the long-term impacts.
Here is the link to the report.