CSB Chairman Finds 'Striking Similarities' In Two BP Accidents

U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt on May 16 told members of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that she found "striking similarities" between the causes of the fatal BP accident in Texas City, Texas, in 2005, and the company's pipeline failure at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in 2006, which resulted in the leakage of more than 200,000 gallons of oil.

CSB did not investigate the Prudhoe Bay accident, but Merritt was asked by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight to review a BP internal audit of the accident completed by Booz Allen Hamilton. Merritt told the subcommittee, "Virtually all of the seven root causes identified for the Prudhoe Bay incidents have strong echoes in Texas City." She added that these included the "significant role of budget and production pressures in driving BP's decision-making and ultimately harming safety."

In further comparisons, Merritt told the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak (Michigan), of safety culture similarities at Texas City and Prudhoe Bay. In Prudhoe Bay, Booz Allen Hamilton found "a normalization of deviance where risk levels gradually crept up due to evolving operating conditions." This compared, she said, to Texas City, where at BP's refinery "[a]bnormal startups were not investigated and became routine, while critical equipment was allowed to decay. By the day of the accident, the distillation equipment had six key alarms, instruments, and controls that were malfunctioning. Trailers had been moved into dangerous locations without appropriate safety reviews."

Similarly, Merritt noted BP's own internal audit findings concerning its Prudhoe Bay pipeline problems faced "long delays in implementation, administrative documentation of close-out even though remedial actions were not actually taken, or simple non-compliance."

For more information visit www.csb.gov.

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