In an expanded report on the causes of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, new details show failure of BP workers to speak up about a problem played a crucial part leading up to rig’s explosion.
Investigators for the White House oil spill commission said BP workers didn’t ask a knowledgeable company engineer about unexpected results from a critical test while the engineer was visiting the rig.
“If anyone had consulted him or any other shore-based engineer, the blowout might never have happened,” a final, expanded report from the commission stated.
Had BP rig workers brought the problematic test to the attention of an engineer, “events likely would have turned out differently,” according to the report (PDF).
Why they don’t speak up
Research by VitalSmarts, a corporate training company, finds that 75% of workers don’t speak up in some unsafe situations, particularly these five:
- Tight deadlines. There’s no avoiding deadlines, but reminding workers that safety should never suffer to meet one could prevent injuries.
- Missing skills. Sometimes workers just don’t have the skills to complete a job safely. This case can be particularly difficult to address because it involves a conversation with workers about skills they don’t have. A prime example: A worker is overcome by fumes in a confined space. Another worker, who isn’t trained to perform a rescue, tries to help the unconscious worker, only to be overcome himself. The message has to be: Don’t be a hero.
- Risky exceptions. These take many forms, but always include a thought by the employee that breaking a safety rule is “just this once.” Do you really have to tell workers repeatedly that there are no exceptions to safety? Yes.
- ‘Unnecessary’ rules. After doing a job for the 100th time, workers may think the safety rules don’t apply to them. Best bet is to include examples of injuries or fatalities in safety talks to show why the rules are necessary.
- ‘For the good of the team.’ Sometimes, workers skip safety steps to be a “good team player.” This attitude needs to be turned around: Being a good team player means speaking up about safety problems that could harm co-workers.
How do you get workers to speak up about safety problems? Let us know in the Comments Box below.