President of BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc., Steve Marshall, recently discussed his company's daunting safety challenges in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News.

After some high-profile tragedies and heavy government fines, Marshall issued a memo in early 2003 saying BP employees had to work to improve workplace safety "as if our lives and our future in Alaska depend on it." In the interview, the BP president was asked what prompted him to choose such strong words.

"Rodney Rost lost his life. That's what caused us to say, you know, never again," said Marshall. "We wanted to do everything we possibly could to not allow Rodney to become just a statistic. (Rost was a contract welder who died in December 2002 while working on a pipeline after a metal plug released under pressure and struck him.)

Continued Marshall: "It's not enough to have good production, low costs and good financials. It's unacceptable in BP these days just to be a good financial performer. For many industries 20 or 30 years ago, that was the mantra — good results. Now I think the ethical and social demands on companies, the commitment to people — not just their development and training but their livelihoods and their health and safety — is of paramount importance."

Marshall said BP's ultimate goal is no injuries. "That is the vision." Marshall reported that cases where an employee has to miss a day away from work because of injury have declined about 35 percent. Recordable injuries are down 30 percent. "The number of what we call high-potential incidents (accidents that caused, or could have caused, serious injuries, explosions, fires, etc.) is way down. But we've still got a way to go."

And it's easy to track how far the company has to go, according to Marshall. "We have a system of what we call league tables across our entire company, like a bowling league or like the NFL. We do this monthly and you can compare stats. Across the globe, we publish how each business is performing, everything from, regrettably, fatalities to days away from work cases, vehicle accidents, spills."

BP's Alaska operations compare favorably with Alaskan industry, he said, and are middle of the pack inside BP.

How often do you read an interview with a company exec where safety takes up this much space?