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.