BP plans company-wide review of operating procedures

BP PLC, as part of its response to a series of accidents, plans next year to review the quality and safety of its operating procedures company-wide.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Nov. 20 -- BP PLC, as part of its response to a series of accidents, plans next year to review the quality and safety of its operating procedures company-wide.

Mike Broadribb, BP's international director of process safety, told a meeting of the American Society of Safety Engineers in Houston this month that the fatal Mar. 23, 2005, blast at the 446,500 b/cd Texas City, Tex., refinery was preventable.

"It's not an easy story to tell; BP doesn't come out very well," Broadribb said. "Texas City was a preventable incident, a totally preventable process failure, a management failure, and a culture failure."

BP and others, including the US Chemical Safety Board, have studied the cause of the explosion extensively. The accident killed 15 people and injured more than 170 (OGJ, Jan. 23, 2006, p. 51).

The accident involved an isomerization unit, raffinate splitter, and blowdown drum.

Broadribb listed high tolerance of noncompliance with procedures and inadequate equipment maintenance as contributing to the explosion.

"If we learned one thing from this incident, it's the need for humility," Broadribb said. In the last 2 years, BP also has dealt with oil spills and pipeline corrosion problems in Prudhoe Bay, Alas., mishaps that have drawn criticism in Congress (OGJ, June 4, 2007, p. 30).

Based upon the Texas City accident, the company is working to implement 1,000 action items. The list includes extensive mechanical renovations, safety inspections throughout the refinery, and the removal of more than 200 temporary buildings and structures.

BP has banned occupied temporary buildings in high-risk areas. Many of the people killed at the Texas City refinery were working in a trailer that was demolished by the explosion.

BP's future plans
Starting Jan. 1, 2008, BP plans to list and review all of its operating procedures. The company also will examine its practices regarding critical safety equipment and maintenance, Broadribb said.

He also is developing methods for measuring the competency of employees in roles critical to safety. Since 2006, the company has audited its operating performance to strengthen internal safety procedures.

At Texas City, the development of employee skills was a low priority with inadequate training, Braodribb said.

"Over the years, the working environment had eroded to one characterized by resistance to change and lacking of trust, motivation, and a sense of purpose," he said.

Consequently, training procedures are being studied company-wide, Broadribb said. Although there is a place for both face-to-face and computer-based training, Broadribb said the company favors face-to-face training.

BP's executives and operational managers receive more advanced and extensive training on process safety than they did in the past.

"Above all else, we've got to listen to our people and their concerns," Broadribb said. "When senior management says something, their actions need to mirror their words…. Whatever you do, you can just change culture a step at a time."

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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