Safety and OSHA News

7 company practices that contributed to BP disaster

The final, and most comprehensive, report on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico points to seven company practices that contributed to the incident. They’re the types of mistakes that could be made by any company, not just an oil giant.

The report from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) says the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and sent almost five million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days starting April 20, 2010, was the result of  “poor risk management, last-minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response, and insufficient emergency bridge response training by the companies responsible.”

The technical reasons for the explosion include problems with cement barriers, production casing and lock-down sleeves.

But the report also finds seven company practices that contributed to the explosion. They read like a list of things not to do if you want to have a safe company:

  • the failure of the crew to stop work after encountering multiple hazards and warnings, despite the existence of a stop-work policy
  • BP’s failure to fully assess the risks associated with a number of operational decisions leading up to the blowout
  • BP’s cost- or time-saving decisions without considering contingencies and mitigation
  • BP’s failure to ensure all risks associated with operations on the Deepwater Horizon were as low as reasonably practicable
  • BP’s failure to have full supervision and accountability over the activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon
  • BP’s failure to document, evaluate, approve and communicate changes associated with Deepwater Horizon personnel and operations, and
  • failure of BP and Transocean to ensure they had a common integrated approach to well control.

Specifically, the BOEMRE report says in the days leading up to April 20, 2010, BP made a series of decisions that added incremental risk and failed to communicate these decisions to its business partner, Transocean. As a result, employees for both companies didn’t fully identify and evaluate the risks involved and misinterpreted anomalies they encountered.

Among the problems that BP and Transocean faced: project completion delays and cost overruns. At the time of the explosion, the project was significantly behind schedule. Operations were more than $58 million over budget.

Resulting cost cuts were a major contributor to the disaster, according to the BOEMRE report.

BP rewarded employees for cost-saving steps but didn’t reward them in the same way for increasing safety.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation that could bring indictments and heavy fines. An expert interviewed by The New York Times says the BOEMRE report increases the likelihood that criminal charges will be filed.

As someone in charge of safety, have you ever faced pressure to cut costs or make changes that would increase risk so a project could be completed on time? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. I am sure that the Obama Admin will do everything they can to make the oil companies look bad after the president mishandled / ignored the situation. Plus the president is against big business. Regaurdless of Safety

  2. First I would like to say I am not a fan of the president. BUT this is the drilling companies fault not the presidents. They cut corners for the almighty buck and it backfired on them. When oil was $80.00 per barrel in the 80’s gas was around $1.00 per gallon. It is now around $80.00 per barrel and the price at the pump is $3.29. who is making the money here and on top of that they cut corners to save even more??? So fine them you say this makes sense. Who do you think is going to pay for the fines? They will be passed on to the consumer in the form of even higher gas prices. So in a nut shell i say its the consumer that is at fault since we are financing the oil companies.


  3. Ginella Calvit-Hedelsky says:

    And… back to the government (they are all the same) who allow’s companies such as this to pass the bill to the consumer.
    Nevertheless, the seven practices or lack of them are very useful and applicable at any company.

  4. No matter what type of company, these practices are typical in to many situations. Uunfortunalty, this one cost 11 lives and 5 million barrels of oil into our enviroment, not to mention all of the Fisherman and jobs lost due to the disaster.
    The question was asked if we, as Safety Professionals, ever faced pressure to cut costs or make changes that would increase risk so a project could be completed on time? I know this happens to me more often than I would like to admit. And those corporate stares I get when I explain the possible safety ramifications that we could face if something goes wrong! I’ve learned to be an advisor and consultant, not an enforcer, and document, document, document!!!!!! If ever we go to court, I can say I had advised any one who would listen NOT to do blah blah blah!

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