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Houston Chronicle: BP’s own audit finds big lapses in management (*Bill Campbell will be interested in this article)

OUR COMMENT AT FOOT OF THIS ARTICLE: *Headline comment in brackets added by ShellNews.net.  Bill Campbell was formally Group Auditor for Shell International. He has made similar charges of cover-up and indifference at Royal Dutch Shell Plc management in relation to safety lapses at Brent Bravo which cost the lives of workers who put their safety in the hands of Shell.  What’s the betting that a safety survey among Shell offshore workers would produce similar results to those reported in this article i.e. workers ranked “making money” as most important to management and “people” the least…”

THE ARTICLE

The review done in the wake of the blast in Texas City cites 50 issues for leaders to address

By ANNE BELLI
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

An internal BP audit that the company refused to make public for the last several months found widespread management and safety problems at its Texas City refinery in the wake of an explosion that killed 15 workers.

The June audit, ordered by BP after the March blast and released by the company Wednesday, discovered major lapses in leadership, risk awareness, compliance with safety policies and workplace conditions.

The scathing review was particularly surprising because 10 of the 17 audit team members were high-level managers at other BP refineries or corporate headquarters.

In refusing to let the Houston Chronicle see the audit three months ago, Texas City plant manager Colin Maclean called it a “family” report that was not intended for public consumption.

Also Wednesday, BP released a second report — an employee survey in which workers ranked “making money” as most important to management and “people” the least.

“Mainly saving money gets rewarded, that is it,” one employee wrote in the survey. “There’s a little bonus money and safety is a pat on the back.”

That report, which BP also had previously said was confidential, was completed in January, just two months before the March 23 blast that also injured more than 170 people.

It was ordered by then-plant manager Don Parus, who wanted to know the “brutal facts” about employee attitudes after a fatal September 2004 accident, according to the report.
BP responds
Plaintiffs lawyers representing victims in the March accident have been fighting to make the two reports, as well as numerous other internal documents, public. The Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News have joined in that effort.

BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said the company was releasing the reports so that it can get on with the litigating and arriving at fair compensation for the victims.

“We do not believe that continuing to fight over public disclosure of documents already provided to plaintiffs is productive or helpful,” he said in a statement.

“We cannot change the past or repair the damage this incident has done,” he added. “But we are working to provide fair and reasonable compensation to people harmed by our mistakes without the need for lengthy court proceedings.”

Still, the court proceedings regarding the public disclosure of documents had not been favorable to BP in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a state district judge ruled against the company and in favor of the newspapers, ordering it to make public 15 internal statements from BP employees interviewed after the blast.

Among the issues
Specifically, the June audit identified roughly 50 issues that the Texas City refinery’s managers needed to address. Among them:

•Plant leadership was not “connecting to the work force in a meaningful way.”
•While refinery procedures appeared sound, there was “inconsistent compliance” with them refinery-wide.
•There was a general lack of awareness of risk.
•Managers and superintendents are rotated out of their jobs so often that they sometimes never develop a deep understanding of the units they are overseeing.
•Control rooms, likened to the cockpits of airplanes, are distracting, even containing television sets for board operators to watch while they’re supposed to be overseeing process units.
•There was a “deep-seated lack of respect for contractors” throughout the refinery, including violations of diversity and inclusion policies.
•While unit upsets and accidents are recorded, there was little analysis to determine safety trends or patterns.
•There was a pervasive lack of accountability among workers and managers.
In the second report on employee attitudes, outside consultants the Telos Group found that workers hurt on the job often felt BP chose to blame the worker rather than look for deeper causes.

“After an incident, we add more detail to the procedure and fire the victim,” wrote one.

Added another, “Once a safety incident occurs, Texas City reacts and manages it pretty well; what we do not manage is the circumstances leading up to the event. Most we do not recognize … .”

Workers also expressed deep frustration at the condition of the refinery and what several called a lax attitude toward safety.

“At the end of the day, we are being asked to manage seat belts but disregard the things that can kill you,” wrote one worker.
Not all negative
However, not all of the comments were negative toward BP. Nearly 92 percent said that their own commitments to safety had improved in the previous two years.

Jim Stanley, former deputy director of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and chairman of the internal audit team, told the Houston Chronicle late Wednesday that he was impressed with BP management during the review, despite the many findings of lapses.

“BP is a stand-up company,” said Stanley, now a private safety consultant. “We found a lot of good things at Texas City and some that needed to be addressed. They have excellent employees there and I was pleased with what we found. Any facility that I go into, there are going to be issues.”

BP’s Chappell said the company has worked to correct many of the deficiencies named in the report over the last several months.

“BP at Texas City has initiated action on the vast majority of the issues and recommendations in the Stanley Report,” he said.

Union speaks out

Gary Beevers, Region 6 director of the United Steelworkers, said both reports provide further evidence that six workers who were fired in the aftermath of the March explosion were treated unfairly. The union has been trying to get the jobs back for those that were hourly workers.

“The employees are vindicated and they should be brought back to work,” Beevers said.

Daniel Horowitz, spokesman for the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said the board would consider the reports as part of their inquiry into the March accident.

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*Headline comment in brackets added by ShellNews.net.  Bill Campbell was formally Group Auditor for Shell International. He has made similar charges of cover-up and indifference at Royal Dutch Shell Plc management in relation to safety lapses at Brent Bravo which cost the lives of workers who put their safety in the hands of Shell.  What’s the betting that a safety survey among Shell offshore workers would produce similar results to those reported in this article i.e. workers ranked “making money” as most important to management and “people” the least…”

RELATED ARTICLE ABOUT BP.

HOUSTON CHRONICLE: A WARNING BECAME A PROPHECY

BP memo bore grim prediction weeks before blast

By ANNE BELLI
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
March 23, 2006, 6:59PM

Early last year, BP officials circulated a planning document for 2005 that lamented safety shortfalls and identified the following “key risk” for the year: “TCS (Texas City site) kills someone in the next 12-18 months.”

Less than three weeks later, at 1:20 p.m. March 23, a massive explosion killed 15 people and injured scores more in the worst U.S. refinery accident in more than a decade.

Today, a year later, many of the survivors will be remembering that hellish day privately at gravesites, or perhaps at lunchtime memorial ceremonies at the refinery or the offices of Jacobs Engineering, which employed 11 of the workers killed.

But while those most affected by the blast will surely mourn, many are also bracing for battle.

While BP paid tens of millions of dollars each to the majority of the most serious victims — family members of loved ones killed and workers who were burned or lost limbs — shortly after the accident, scores of less-seriously injured people are still waiting for what they call justice.

Armed with the pre-explosion plan, which was obtained by the Houston Chronicle Wednesday, and thousands of other company documents they say point to longstanding safety concerns at the company — the victims are looking forward to their day in court with the oil behemoth.

Galveston County State District Judge Susan Criss recently gave them just that, setting the first trial date for Sept. 18. That’s when the first batch of plaintiffs — eight of an estimated 500 remaining — will take their claims of widespread negligence against BP to a jury.

“They’re the string-alongers,” said Beaumont attorney Brent Coon, who is representing more than 100 people. Their injuries run the gamut, he said, from broken backs to injured knees and legs, to hearing loss.

Many, he said, have the added diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, the psychological fallout from “being at ground zero.”

“It was like a war zone out there, seeing people running and screaming,” he said.

Among those initially going to trial will also be Eva Rowe, whose parents were both killed in the blast, and Darlene Heickman, whose son died.

James and Linda Rowe and Ryan Rodriguez were among about two dozen contractors and BP employees working in a doublewide construction trailer parked about 120 feet away from the unit that exploded.

That unit was being restarted following a six-month maintenance outage when operators accidentally overfilled the so-called raffinate splitter, used to make chemicals that boost the octane of gasoline, with highly flammable hydrocarbons.

The liquids and gases spilled into a relief area called a blowdown drum, then rushed up a stack that vented to the atmosphere. A gas cloud formed and liquids puddled on the ground. Within seconds it was all ignited, likely by an idling truck.

A record OSHA fine

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in September levied a record $21.3 million fine against BP and slapped it with more than 300 so-called willful violations, the more serious kind.

Many of them centered on the lack of maintenance and safety management guidelines at the refinery. The violations were so extensive that OSHA referred its case to the U.S. Department of Justice. Local FBI agents are investigating the blast for possible criminal misconduct, but officials have refused to comment on their case.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating the incident for possible civil action.

In its own internal report, released in November, BP acknowledged serious management lapses that it believed led to the accident. And although it originally fought to block their release, the company also made public in recent months two scathing internal reports regarding safety at the refinery.

BP says it has done much to improve safety at the refinery in the past year. As part of a $1 billion, five-year plan for improvement, BP has updated equipment, enhanced training and revamped the management structure, said BP spokesman Scott Dean.

It also is removing blow downstacks like the kind involved in the blast and has relocated construction trailers away from operating units, Dean said.

He added that the company many months ago set aside $700 million to resolve claims and is attempting to avoid “the need for lengthy litigation.”

But lawyers involved in the pending cases say the company has dragged its feet in court.

“We received multiple assurances that they were going to quickly compensate our clients,” Houston lawyer John Eddie Williams said. “But they said one thing and they quickly disappeared.”

He added, “I think they had an urgency immediately after the fire and explosion to settle the ultra-catastrophic injuries and deaths. And then for whatever reason there was no follow-up with the people who had career-ending injuries.”

Safety at issue

Williams, Coon and others have been receiving thousands of internal documents in recent months from BP that they say point to basic lapses in safety.

Among those records is the 2005 business plan, which lists several other safety risks.

“Safety not being viewed at the No. 1 priority at TCS,” is one. Another is “Individuals are still being hurt at TCS.”

David Crow, a Jacobs contractor who was inside the doomed construction trailer but somehow survived the blast, said late Wednesday that he hoped BP has improved its safety. And he hopes that the fact that the refinery has been shut down since September for repairs is a good sign that the company is making progress.

“I want to believe that they are doing the right thing,” he said.

But like others, he said that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, he said, he’ll continue to try and recover from his broken back and foot, and remember how he lost so many friends a year ago today.

“I will relive it in my mind all day,” he said.

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