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Report details safety shortcomings at BP refineries (1/18)

January 18, 2007
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A report released Tuesday on BP's five U.S. refineries detailed what appeared in the report to be a company-wide disregard for safety. Although some plants were better than others, a process safety consultant found what it called serious lapses at all of BP’s Texas refineries, including the Texas City facility in which 15 people died in a March 2005 explosion.

The findings by ABS Consulting, Houston, are the backbone of Tuesday's report made public by the BP U.S. Refineries Independent Safety Review Panel, chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and charged with evaluating the oil giant's commitment to safety.

The report alleged critical thinning pipes were ignored, process equipment tests were improperly conducted and overdue, employees understood little of the inherent dangers, and the company had failed to learn from near misses at all five of its U.S. refineries.

According to Baker, BP focused more on personal safety issues, such as slips and falls and vehicle accidents, rather than process safety. Because the company's personal safety record improved in time, management had a "false sense of confidence that it was properly addressing process safety," Baker said.

While the report found no evidence BP executives intentionally underfunded safety improvements, it claimed the company nonetheless failed to dedicate enough of the company's vast profits through the years in that area.

BP CEO Lord Browne said he took responsibility for the company's oversights and had already begun to implement changes, including the commitment of $1.7 billion a year for the next four years to improve safety at its U.S. refineries. Browne also addressed the report’s accusation that employees were undereducated, announcing an agreement in principle with the United Steelworkers labor union to craft a comprehensive joint safety initiative.

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