The Baker Commission released its report on British Petroleum (BP) in January, and the findings boil down to this succinct observation in the introduction: “People can forget to be afraid.” In other words, the decision makers at the company forgot about the inherent dangers of processing crude oil. The intensity, duration and heft of this investigation were noteworthy, while the findings might not surprise anyone acquainted with the company’s safety record in the United States.
The Commission, empanelled by BP at the urging of the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents, probed the process and safety culture at BP. It also assessed the effectiveness of corporate oversight of safety management systems at the company’s five United States refineries.
The Price of Forgetfulness
The price of BP forgetfulness was a very public airing of the company’s failings by the Commission when the report was released. BP announced in January that its chief executive, Lord John Browne, would step down by the end of July
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2007-02-11.