A government investigation into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill looks at specific factors such as how deep a cement plug was set and whether additional barriers should have been installed. But the root causes of the incident that killed 11 workers focus on common subjects for workplace safety: management, communication, previous near-misses, safety culture and government regulation.
The commission appointed by President Obama will present its full report on Jan. 11. But it released one chapter of the report a few days earlier.
The report says the incident on April 20, 2010, was avoidable and that most of the mistakes at the Macondo well can be traced back to “a single overarching failure — a failure of management. Better management by BP, Halliburton and Transocean would almost certainly have prevented the blowout.”
Among the highlights from this chapter of the report:
- Three things could have prevented the blowout. “But mistakes and failure to appreciate risk compromised each of those potential barriers.”
- “BP’s management process did not adequately identify or address risks created by late changes to well design and procedures.” Changes in plans at Macondo “appear to have been made by the BP Macondo team in ad hoc fashion without any formal risk analysis or internal expert review.”
- “BP, Transocean, and Halliburton failed to communicate adequately. Information appears to have been excessively compartmentalized … BP did not share important information with its contractors, or sometimes internally even with members of its own team.”
- “Transocean failed to adequately communicate lessons from an earlier near-miss to its crew … from an eerily similar near-miss on one of its rigs in the North Sea four months prior to the Macondo blowout.”
- “Decisionmaking processes at Macondo did not adequately ensure that personnel fully considered the risks created by time- and money-saving decisions.”
This chapter also notes that in the full report, BP’s corporate safety culture will be addressed. “It is also critical that companies implement and maintain a pervasive top-down safety culture that reward employees and contractors who take action when there is a safety concern even though such action costs the company time and money.”
The government doesn’t get a pass in this report:
- “Government also failed to provide the oversight necessary to prevent these lapses in judgment and management by private industry.”
- “The root cause can be better found by considering how efforts to expand regulatory oversight, tighten safety requirements, and provide funding to equip regulators with the resources, personnel, and training needed to be effective were either overtly resisted or not supported by industry, members of Congress, and several administrations.”
- Government “lacked personnel with the kinds of expertise and training needed to enforce regulations effectively.”
A PDF of the pre-released chapter can be found here.
What do you think are the biggest safety lessons from the Gulf oil spill? Let us know in the Comments Box below.