Some of the media, over the weekend, was critical of BP for not applying a Safety Case to the BP/Deepwater horizon oil rig. The Safety Case is an established method of assessing risk in high-hazard organisations and should have been applied. Whether such a technique would have made any difference is debatable as it is hypothetical.
Safety Case regimes have proven effective and are used as a default risk setting in many corporations but the story is not only one of a specific Safety Case missed opportunity. BP is an example of corporate hypocrisy that supports the cynicism of the community to large corporations whose actions do not reflect their commitment.
BP Global says on one of its websites:
‘Common process’ is about finding a common way of doing things across the whole drilling and completions community, based on best practice. Each of the companies that were brought together to form today’s BP had a different way of planning and executing wells. It was felt that simply bringing some consistency to operations and spreading best practice globally, irrespective of which company it originated from, would pay handsome dividends.” (emphasis added)
The Age on 5 July 2010 is one paper that reports on the BP situation.
It must be noted that safety case assessments are not required under American law so there was no legislative obligation for BP to apply a safety case. But it is BP’s own statements that damn its own practices. One cannot say that “best practice” will be applied if one is only prepared to achieve compliance. In The Age article Royal Dutch Shell says it applies safety case assessments throughout the world.
American OHS regulators now must introduce a safety case regime. It will cost a large amount of taxpayers’ funds to establish but less to monitor over time. The oil companies already know of the assessment process so it can be applied with little disruption but it may also identify oil rigs that need considerable rework before safety is achieved. If this is the case, the corporations need to wear the cost that should have been applied on all oil rigs since the 1980’s as Europe did.
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a testament to hollow corporate pledges, the hollowness of which should not wait for a major disaster to identify.