The chemical safety board (CSB) have released preliminary findings from their investigation into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy that suggest that BP and Transocean may be held liable for the incident.
The CSB report states that the oil companies have crucial gaps in their safety policies and focused on incorrect safety indicators, which lead to warnings of problems being ignored until the tragedy was inevitable. Indicators of danger were left unchecked, eventually leading to one of the most damaging offshore oil spills in United States history.
Of the many federal agencies to look in to the cause of the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Chemical Safety Board is the last to release its report on its investigation findings. The CSB typically investigates suspicious incidents at chemical factories and oil refineries, but they were requested to investigate the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill after they had successfully found the cause of an explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City in 2005. The CSB’s recommendations after that have lead to substantial improvements in safety procedures at the onshore refinery that have reduced levels of accidents and spills significantly.
As well as causing severe environmental damage, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy also lead to the deaths of 11 oil rig crew members. In its report, the CSB have indicated that the offshore drilling industry have placed too much emphasis on personal injury prevention, rather than focusing on more general safety procedures such as maintenance of safety equipment and the prevention of explosions. It is general safety processes such as this that will prevent tragedies such as the Deepwater Horizon incident from happening in the future.
The report indicates that BP did not learn important lessons from previous incidents such as the Texas City explosion. ‘A key lesson not implemented was that preventing major accidents requires a specific focus on process safety management over and above personal safety’, the CSB concluded.
BP audited the Deepwater Horizon vessel, which was on lease from Transocean, in 2007 and audited the ship at this time, making several changes to the safety protocols and procedures. Most of the changes, however, were related to concerns of personal safety such as adequate labeling of tanks, scaffolding on vessels and correct calibration of equipment. Transocean’s own safety assessment of the vessel were also focused largely on personal safety, with no procedures instituted for incidents such as potentially explosive gas being released from oil wells.