An internal BP audit that the company refused to make public for months identified an array of management and safety problems at the company's Texas City refinery in the aftermath of an explosion that killed 15 workers, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle.

BP ordered the review in June after the March blast and released it late last month. Significant lapses in leadership, risk awareness, compliance and workplace conditions were cited by the audit team, which included ten high-ranking managers at other BP refineries or corporate HQ among the 17 reviewers.

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

BP also released a second report — an employee survey in which workers ranked "making money" as most important to management and "people" the least.

"Safety is a pat on the back," one employee wrote in the survey. That report was completed last January, two months before the March 23 blast that also injured more than 170 people.

It was commissioned by then-plant manager Don Parus, who wanted to know the "brutal facts" about employee attitudes at the Texas City site after a fatal September 2004 accident, according to the report.

The June audit identified about 50 issues that the Texas City refinery's managers needed to address. Among them:

  • Plant leadership was not "connecting to the workforce 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 survey 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.

    "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.

    Despite the stinging critique, "BP is a stand-up company," said Jim Stanley, former deputy director of OSHA and chairman of the internal audit team, in an interview with the Chronicle.

    Stanley, now a private safety consultant, said, "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."