Panel blasts BP's safety practices

The Independent Safety Review Panel charged with looking at safety practices at BP’s U.S. refineries in the aftermath of the 2005 explosion at the company’s Texas City, Texas, site that killed 15 people (Read BP tackles Texas City failings) in January issued its findings and recommendations.

The so-called Baker Report, named after the panel’s chairman, former Secretary of State James Baker, was developed by a diverse 11-member panel, including Dennis Hendershot, who is the safety guru for “Ask the Experts” on ChemicalProcessing.com. (Read more about his experience on the panel.)

The 374-page report (available at www.bp.com/bakerpanelreport) bluntly discusses a wide variety of issues and emphasizes: “Although we necessarily direct our report to BP, we intend it for a broader audience. We are under no illusion that deficiencies in process safety culture, management, or corporate oversight are limited to BP. Other companies and their stakeholders can benefit from our work. We urge these companies to regularly and thoroughly evaluate their safety culture, the performance of their process safety management systems, and their corporate safety oversight for possible improvements. We also urge the same companies to carefully review  our findings and recommendations for application to their situations.”

The panel makes 10 basic recommendations:

  1. Process safety leadership. Corporate management must provide effective leadership on process safety and must establish appropriate goals.
  2. Integrated and comprehensive process safety management system. BP should set up a mechanism to systematically and continuously identify, reduce and manage process safety risks.
  3. Process safety knowledge and expertise. The company should develop a system to ensure that all levels of management, as well as supervisors, workers and contractors possess an appropriate level of such knowledge and expertise.
  4. Process safety culture. BP should involve the relevant stakeholders to develop a positive, trusting and open process safety culture within each U.S. refinery.
  5. Clearly defined expectations and accountability for process safety. The company should spell out expectations and strengthen accountability for process safety performance at all levels of management and supervision.
  6. Support for line management. BP should provide more-effective and better-coordinated process safety support for the U.S. refining line organization.
  7. Leading and lagging performance indicators for process safety. The company should establish and periodically update an integrated set of indicators for more-effective monitoring of performance.
  8. Process safety auditing. BP should establish an effective system to audit process safety performance of its U.S. refineries.
  9. Board monitoring. BP’s Board should monitor implementation of the panel’s recommendations and the ongoing safety performance of the company’s U.S. refineries. For at least the next five years the Board should engage an independent monitor to report annually on the progress in achieving the panel’s recommendations, and should publicly report each year on the progress and the company’s ongoing process safety performance.
  10. Industry leader. BP should use the lessons gained from the Texas City tragedy and from the panel’s report to transform itself into a recognized industry leader in process safety management.

The report includes a massive amount of background detail, set out in seven sections and eight appendices — ranging from the methodology of the review, which included site visits and public meetings, to BP’s in-place safety policies, practices and expectations, and the panel’s findings, which alone take up more than 170 pages.

The basic points in the report undoubtedly won’t come as revelations to process safety specialists, says Trevor Kletz, U.K.-based safety authority. “Everything in the report on the underlying causes of accident has been said or written a zillion times by me and many others in the course of our careers,” he notes.

BP, for its part, says it will implement the panel’s suggestions. “Many of the panel’s recommendations are consistent with the findings of our own internal reviews,” said John Browne, BP Group chief executive. “Members of our refining leadership team will be meeting with the panel within the week to address how best to implement these recommendations… We will want to do everything possible to prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred at Texas City.”

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