Safety and OSHA News

BP gusher: Deja vu for investigative board

It must be a case of deja vu for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB). Five years ago it was investigating an explosion in Texas that killed 15 BP workers. Now it will investigate the Gulf explosion and spill that killed 11 BP workers.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, wrote a letter to the CSB asking it to investigate the Gulf disaster.

The CSB’s resources had already been stretched thin with other disaster investigations such as major explosions at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, CT, and the ConAgra Slim Jim facility in Garner, NC.

But, noting that the BP oil leak is “one of the most significant chemical accidents of the current era,” the CSB has decided to investigate the Gulf disaster.

The process will include the key investigators who were involved in the CSB’s 2005-2007 report on the BP Texas City explosion.

The CSB says it will examine key technical factors, the safety cultures involved, and the effectiveness of relevant laws, regulations and industry standards.

Three years ago, the CSB’s final report on the BP Texas City blast found:

  • organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of BP Corporation
  • cost-cutting that had affected safety programs and critical maintenance
  • production pressures that resulted in costly mistakes made by workers likely fatigued by working long hours, and
  • lack of sufficient action on problems that were brought to the attention of BP’s board of directors.

You can read a statement from the CSB on its upcoming investigation here (PDF).

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  1. On one hand it seems smart to send the same investigators to look at BP in that they have already seen procedures, and know key personnel….but the investigators may have a bias toward BP. If the investigators feel their recommendations were ignored 5 years ago they may “take it out on BP”

    Not saying this will happen but the impression of impropriority is all it will take on BP’s part when they try to discredit the report.

  2. Steven,

    Interesting comment. The CSB appears to be expecting that sort of complaint. This was included in the letter CSB sent to Congress announcing it would investigate the Gulf oil gusher:

    “Although we will be vigilant for any similarities to the Texas City explosion, as suggested in your letter, we believe it is also important that this investigation be approached without any preconceptions and that all possible underlying factors and causes are thoroughly and objectively examined.”


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