Good Hump Day morning,
OSHA â€” AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ENFORCER…
OSHA continues to bang on brand name businesses and a wide-range of industries. This week agency fined Home Depot $112,000; a DuPont facility $43,000, and Jarden Home Brands in Greenville, Texas, $197,500. Rexnord Industries LLC was slapped with a $130,500 fine after worker's arm was amputated. A Massachusetts seafood company faces $279,000 in penalties for alleged process safety management hazards. And a Danbury, Conn., hospital was fined $6,300 after a patient shot a nurse three times. The nurse survived.
OSHA inspectors are particularly focusing on process safety hazards, electrical hazards (just ask the United Safety Postal Service, which has been hit with millions of dollars in fines for electrical hazards), recordkeeping under-reporting, incentive programs that serve to hide injuries, combustible dust and housekeeping, and injuries leading to amputations.
OIL & GAS DRILLING: “A CULTURE OF PERMISSIVE”
Former Department of the Interior Secretaries Gale Norton and Dirk Kempthorne, testified this week before a joint House Subcommittees' hearing of Oversight and Investigations, and of Energy and Environment, regarding the role of the Interior Department in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Kempthorne, who served as Interior secretary from 2006 to January 2009, while George W. Bush was president, he recalled being pointedly asked why Interior wasn't doing more to expand offshore energy development, not less. Those concerns were driven by $4 per gallon gas prices, Kempthorne said.
Norton, who served from 2001 to 2006, also under Bush, said the industry had a remarkable safety record, including during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
"The cop on the beat was off-duty for nearly a decade. And this gave rise to a culture of permissiveness," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the panel's chairman.
Waxman said the Interior Department’s problems escalated under a "secretive task force" on energy organized by former Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001. The task force gave Interior marching orders to provide incentives to oil and gas companies to increase domestic production, while reducing regulatory impediments that may slow production, Waxman said.
Under her watch, he told Norton, it appeared that the mission of the Minerals Management Service -- the Interior agency responsible for offshore drilling -- was mainly to serve the oil and gas industry by helping to expand deepwater drilling.
Her decisions "sent a clear message: the priority was more drilling first, safety second," Waxman said.
Norton, now a lawyer for Royal Dutch Shell oil company, called that unfair. Under her watch, Interior took numerous steps to increase safety, including reducing the area where drilling was permitted off the coast of Florida, she said.
Norton said the 2001 terrorist attacks brought the need for domestic energy production "shockingly into focus," adding that the attacks transformed the need for more domestic energy "into a matter of grave national security."
WHEN INNOVATION OUTPACES SAFETY
A thousand books have been written on leadership. One leadership skill is the ability to shape an organization’s culture. Government and BP leaders are under attack for fostering cultures of complacency, cultures that put cost-savings and profits before safety.
Here’s the latest in how leaders should be taking the lead, from an article entitled Leadership Characteristics - A Shift In Requirements? by Bryn Meredith.
In a recent study CEOs were asked to prioritize the three most important leadership qualities that were needed in the new economic environment. The top three required competencies were creativity, integrity and global thinking.
Creativity received 60% of the votes as the most important characteristic leaders need to have today.
It is not a case of leaders being more creative themselves. It is more a need for them to recognize how to create a culture of innovation within their teams.
The safety challenge: Innovation often comes at the expense of safety. The BP Gulf spill is another example of technological innovation outpacing development of human skills to safety operate that innovative technology. Investing in innovation is a no-brainer in today’s ultra-competitive economy, but leaders must realize the need for safety training and processes to keep pace with tech advance.
OK, WHO ARE THE BAD GUYS?
From the Pump Handle blog: “Congressman Tom Price MD (R-GA) is apparently offended by the suggestion that some companies are not model employers. During last week's hearing in the House Education and Labor Committee on a bill to modernize a few provisions of the OSHA and MSHA statutes, he seemed annoyed that asst. secretary of labor for OSHA, David Michaels, has characterized some employers as ‘unscrupulous.’ The Congressman said:
“’Secretary Michaels, you have talked a number of times about [quote] unscrupulouos employers [unquote]. Do you want to name any?’
“Dr. Michaels responded with one example: ‘a certain oil company with the initials BP.’
“When Congressman Price pressed the asst. secretary for other examples of employers who deserve the ‘unscrupulous’ label, Dr. Michaels said: ‘if you'd like, I can certainly get you a list.’”
Now that list would be a triump of transparency. Let’s see if we ever see it.
“BP KEPT DRILLING AFTER REPORT OF LEAK, WORKER SAYS”
How many times have we read that sort of headline after a disaster? In the final days before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP continued drilling for oil despite internal reports of a leak on a critical safety device on the rig, a company official testified on Tuesday, according to press report.
Robert Sepulvado, a BP well site leader, said he reported the problem to senior company officials and assumed it would be relayed to the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates offshore drilling.
“I assumed everything was O.K., because I reported it to the team leader and he should have reported it to M.M.S.,” Mr. Sepulvado said.
Assumptions, assumptions, and damn assumptions, to paraphrase Mark Twain. Assumptions can be the death of safety.
His testimony came at an investigative hearing in this New Orleans suburb conducted by the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the new name of the minerals service.
D.C. vs. THE REAL WORLD
Shocking news reported by Politico this week: “The massive expansion of government under President Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market … is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area.”
“A new POLITICO poll underscores the big divide: Roughly 45 percent of 'Washington elites' said the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, while roughly 25 percent of the general population said they felt that way.
”Washington has been largely shielded from the economic downturn, even in 2009, when most states and cities were hit the hardest. … Many New York firms have opened new offices and created new jobs in D.C. to deal with the growing web of regulations. Northrop Grumman - one of many contractors profiting from government growth - is moving its operations from Southern California to Northern Virginia. … Even media companies, which have been hammered by the economy and bad industry-wide trends, are hiring in town.”
Just wondering: Will this “Beltway Bubble” that shields fed leaders, including regulators such as OSHA, from routine realities seep into standards-setting efforts such as the injury and illness prevention program, a combustible dust standard, and other? Will unrealistic demands been fostered on employers?
The Wall Street Journal’s Monday Edition, page one story: “Rig's Final Hours Probed: Spill Investigators Focus on 20 'Anomalies' Aboard Doomed Deepwater Horizon,” by Russell Gold:
“Federal authorities investigating BP PLC's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are zeroing in on bad decisions, missed warnings and worker disagreements in the hours before the April 20 inferno aboard the Deepwater Horizon that spawned one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. In particular, the panel is examining why rig workers missed telltale signs that the well was close to an uncontrolled blowout, according to an internal document assembled by the investigators.”