Sunday, February 13, 2011

When will BP be Charged In Workers Deaths

I have been face book posting a number of stories about BP. Since the Supreme Court of the United States not only reconfirmed that Corporations were Persons, which was first recognized in the late 1890's, but extended their rights within the political arena, then as persons, they should face the consequences of their actions.

Which is to be charged with murder since they were criminally negligent when it came to safety.The result 26 deaths over five years. But because they were 'workplace incidents' the resulting deaths of real persons, because they are workers, is not considered equivalent to murder.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that monetary penalties just aren’t enough. We believe that nothing focuses the mind like the threat of doing time in prison, which is why we need criminal penalties for employers who are determined to gamble with their workers’ lives and consider it merely a cost of doing business when a worker dies on the job.”

- Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor (OSHA)

The facts as shown in this Fortune article say otherwise, this was no accident it was an accident waiting to happen.

In the decade before the Deepwater Horizon, BP (BP) had a history of serious accidents. Each time its CEO vowed to avoid a future disaster. In 2000, after a string of fires and equipment failures, CEO John Browne announced plans to "renew our commitment to safety." In 2005, after a horrific explosion killed 15 people at BP's Texas City refinery, he swore there'd be "no stone left unturned" to investigate what happened and correct any safety issues. In 2007, after being named Browne's successor in the aftermath of more problems, Tony Hayward promised to focus "like a laser" on safety -- only to oversee the worst oil spill in history.

Fortune's investigation shows how Hayward, a fast-rising geologist once known as "Teflon Tony," fell tragically short of his goal. Despite efforts to change, BP never corrected the underlying weakness in its safety approach, which allowed earlier calamities, such as the Texas City refinery explosion. Perhaps the most crucial culprit: an emphasis on personal safety (such as reducing slips and falls) rather than process safety (avoiding a deadly explosion). That might seem like a semantic distinction at first glance, but it had profound consequences.

Consider this: BP had strict guidelines barring employees from carrying a cup of coffee without a lid -- but no standard procedure for how to conduct a "negative-pressure test," a critical last step in avoiding a well blowout. If done properly, that test might have saved the Deepwater Horizon.

Indeed, BP executives warned of serious process-safety "gaps" in the Gulf of Mexico, Fortune has learned, in a never-before-reported strategy document dated December 2008. "It's become apparent," the BP document stated, "that process-safety major hazards and risks are not fully understood by engineering or line operating personnel. Insufficient awareness is leading to missed signals that precede incidents and response after incidents, both of which increases the potential for and severity of process-safety related incidents." The document called for stronger "major hazard awareness."

But BP failed. "They just did safety wrong," says Nancy Leveson, an industrial safety expert at MIT who served on a panel that investigated BP's safety practices after its refinery explosion; she has since taught safety classes to BP executives and also advised the presidential panel that investigated the Deepwater Horizon disaster. "They were producing a lot of standards," she says, "but many were not very good, and many were irrelevant." Leveson says that she was so troubled by BP's approach that in January 2010 she told colleagues, "They are an accident waiting to happen."

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