BP Magazine Profiles Safety-Savvy Director

The energy company can expect the Feb. 27 trial over the Deepwater Horizon incident to focus on its safety culture. Non-executive Director Frank Bowman says it's in good shape.

BP Magazine's latest issue includes an interview with Adm. Frank "Skip" Bowman, who joined the board of BP p.l.c. on Nov. 8, 2010, as a non-executive director and serves on the chairman's and the safety, ethics and environment assurance committees. Bowman knows a lot about the safety of complex systems because he spent 38 years in the U.S. Navy, including eight as director of naval reactors for its nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier fleets.

In the article (Issue 4, 2011) by David Vigar, with photos by Graham Trot, Bowman discusses the Navy's SUBSAFE system, which was cited as a role model of process safety in the report of the Presidential Commission into the Deepwater Horizon event in April 2010.

Vigar writes that, thanks to Bowman, BP's leaders now understand the processes, standards, and attitudes on which Navy nuclear reactors' strong safety record relies. Bowman served on the independent panel that investigated BP's American refineries after the Texas City, Texas refinery explosion in 2005 and later became a member of the company's U.S. advisory council. He has visited every BP refinery in the United States, two offshore platforms, and BP's learning center in Houston and has led a session at BP's Operations Academy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the article.

The BP safety and operational risk (S&OR) division is working well, Bowman says in the article: "We've recently walked away from several jobs where our standards were not being met by our partners or a contractor. That sends a message heard around the world, and we should continue to do that."

"BP has done a lot: establishing S&OR. Getting the operating management system (OMS) fully embedded," he adds. "We have a new set of voluntary performance standards for deepwater drilling that tells the world BP is very serious. We are sharing lessons learned among ourselves and with governments and global partners. We have begun to have more field inspections. I was very happy to observe and participate in Bernard Looney's [executive vice president for Developments] inspections and sessions with the Gulf of Mexico and North America Gas leadership teams. I was impressed with the conduct of that inspection.

"We can't be satisfied with meeting some given level of process safety achievement and say, 'OK, that's that, let's go on to something else.' The way we got to the level of excellence we had in the Navy was to never, ever, be satisfied. I think BP can learn from that."

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