BP PLC ignored its own safety guidelines, and senior managers did little to heed warning signs until it was too late, according to the report on the Texas City, Texas, explosion in 2005, which killed 15 people and injured 170.
The report, issued by a panel headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III, found BP had not provided what the panel called "effective process safety leadership."
"While BP has an aspirational goal of 'no accidents, no harm to people,' BP has not provided effective leadership in making certain its management and U.S. refining work force understand what is expected of them regarding process safety performance," the report said.
The report also found that at some of BP's refineries, the company had not established a "positive, trusting and open environment" with effective communication between management and labor. Partly as a result, prior warnings about the plant's dangers went unheeded.
In addition, the report revealed that BP failed to have an advocate of safety issues at the senior levels of management. "Despite having numerous staff at different levels of the organization that support process safety, BP does not have a designated, high-ranking leader for process safety dedicated to its refining business," the report said.
"Initiative overload," whereby managers undertook multiple safety initiatives without thoroughly completing or following through on a single one, also led to the deterioration of the plant's safety margins, as workers eventually ceased to take any new initiative seriously, the report said.
Profits took precedence over safety, the panel found. No one in executive management appeared to have been given responsibility for improving safety at the plant.
Lastly, a decentralized corporate safety culture meant that managers were free to follow their own rules. As a result, the standards at one plant varied from those of another. "The Panel found instances of a lack of operating discipline, tolerance of serious deviations from safe operating practices and apparent complacency toward serious process safety risks at each refinery," the report's authors wrote.
In September 2005, BP agreed to a record fine of $21 million to settle more than 300 violations identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More than 1,000 claims have been filed against the company since the March 23, 2005, blast. The company says it has settled a majority of those claims, according to news reports.
April 1, 2007
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