“…in relation to BP’s OHS catastrophes and comments about their management style, their managers and this aspirational, easily-bandied-about notion of workplace culture. Two things stimulated me to put together this comment below: first, on the back of some 2000 workplace inspections across Australia and some internationally I have not detected this thing called ‘workplace culture’ other than as a cheap metaphor and ploy to manipulate; even if you chose to think of this phenomenon as ‘shared values and how we do things here’. Secondly, there’s terrible and dangerous bullshit going on in relation to ‘personality cult’, ‘disconnect’ (‘no one told me’), and ‘it couldn’t happen here because we care’.”
Tom von Aschwege has provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with a long article that was intended as a comment on recent articles concerning the safety culture of BP. The comment deserved to be an article in order to provide more prominence to von Aschwege’s views. Links, where appropriate, have been added and format has been tweaked.
“I came by Ross Macfarlane’s article totally by accident. I regret to say that I completely agree with him, because I have made some of the same, or very similar observations. I too am an ex-BP employee, and I too have a strong sense of dismay at what is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.
Prior to retiring from BP in 2009, I worked in Integrity Management roles for 6 years in the BP deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GoM) organization. In those 6 years we put massive amounts of time and effort into improving Integrity Management (IM) processes and practices for GoM operations – even more so after the 2005 Texas City accident, Thunder Horse listing incident, and Alaska pipeline failure. I am thoroughly convinced that BP has done more and accomplished more in this area overall than any other GoM operator. Yet somehow these things still happen in BP operations, and I wonder how that can be. How can BP be so unlucky, and other GoM operators, with far fewer technical resources and knowledge, not have this happen to them? Continue reading “BP, safety culture and integrity management”
Guest contributor Jim Ward writes:
Interested observers of past OHS failures would do well to pay close attention to the insights of former BP employee Ross Macfarlane in the SafetyAtWorkBlog – A personal insight into BP and the corporate approach to safety.
His erudite observations of some of the underlying issues surrounding BP’s succession of calamities during the noughties and the company’s subsequent struggle to come to grips with the implications for its brand, culture, ethics and self perception are rare.
They are the sort of insights not usually captured during a formal root cause analysis of an OHS disaster. Irrespective of who is found to be right and who is wrong some things just don’t help when it comes to trying to achieve a safe workplace. But, Macfarlane’s insights do.
Macfarlane’s apt description of the “Cult of Lord Browne” is given further weight by the erstwhile CEO’s own account of his life and times as the head of the oil giant in his memoir Beyond Business.
In my view Browne is a narcissist. In his book he portrays himself as
“a visionary leader who transformed a lacklustre organisation into one of the world’s biggest, most successful and admired companies”.
My take on it is that he was admired by his peers but not as much as he was by himself. Continue reading “Leadership starts with the truth”
Ross Macfarlane is a regular reader of SafetyAtWorkBlog and an active safety professional in Australia. Below he provides his perspective on BP’s approach to safety as an ex-employee [links added]:
As an ex-BP employee I am again feeling a strong sense of dismay at what is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that BP appears to be deliberately distancing itself from Deepwater is a further shift from the radical openness policy that prevailed up until the Texas City disaster in 2005.
Prior to Texas City, BP was in the thrall of its charismatic CEO (then Sir John, now Lord Browne,) but since then, it seems to me, it struggles with its identity and its corporate culture. In 2000, when I became a part of BP with Castrol, I was struck by what I saw as a “Cult of Lord Browne” – Continue reading “A personal insight into BP and the corporate approach to safety”