More lessons from the BP oil Spill

The CEO of BP Oil went before Congress today and testified under oath. For most of the time, he was bobbing and weaving trying to avoid admitting errors – for obvious legal liability reasons. However, there was one statement he made that has a lot of bearing on what we are going to discuss here. He said that accidents happen for two reasons: equipment failure and poor human judgment. That is absolutely TRUE!

So how do we avoid accidents?

To avoid or greatly minimize equipment failure, we need to design the equipment under worst case scenarios. We also need to have a backup system when the “fail-safe” equipment fails. The BP CEO actually said that his “ultimate fail-safe equipment” failed – which lead to the oil spill. Note that there was no relief well designed as part of the deep water well system. That’s why BP is now drilling two relief wells to kill the blown-out well but that won’t be completed until August – 4 months after the blowout and millions of gallons of oil spilled!!!

To combat error in human judgment, the following need to be in place. Employees must receive adequate training to do the job. They must know what to do in case of emergency. The emergency response plan must be realistic and specific to the worst case scenario. It must also be specific to the facility – none of this cut-and-paste stuff. Finally, the management/bonus/reward structure must be designed to discourage corner cutting.

So keep all of this in mind when you prepare your next SPCC plan, your RCRA Contingency Plan and your storm watre pollution prevention plan.

Equipment failure and human error!


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