Safety Violations Implicated in BP Oil Spill

Federal hearings last week revealed a number of safety violations that may have contributed to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. It appears that the maintenance and safety equipment on board the oilrig were out of date. Electronics technician, Michael Williams, testified that the emergency alarms were disabled several weeks prior to the explosion, which resulted in the death of eleven employees and an oil spill of more than 4 million barrels into the Gulf.

Williams managed to survive the explosion on April 20th by diving off the rig when the fire broke out. The ex-marine’s testimony carries even more weight given his close link to the disaster. He explained to the federal panel that faulty software used on board caused the computer systems to crash on a regular basis.

BP manager, Ronald Sepulvado, contributed further evidence with a report from the acting contractor filed three months before the explosion indicating that the blowout preventer on the rig may be faulty. With the possibility of a gas leak, the device would fail to perform its defensive role in the case of an oil or gas blowout. The critical information in this report was ignored by BP, as they failed to inform federal authorities of the safety risk.

While the focus has been primarily on BP since the rig explosion, the Swiss-based company, Transocean, also operates a fleet of rigs in the area, and they too have been neglecting safety protocol in favor of uninterrupted drilling. Reports compiled by Lloyd’s Register Group revealed that certain components on the Deepwater Horizon and nearby rigs had not been inspected in over ten years.

The Obama administration has taken note of these reports and intends to investigate BP and a number of other companies. Criminal charges will be pressed where negligence has occurred to reflect the gravity of this recent catastrophe. Federal authorities are digging deeper to learn just how casual the major players in offshore drilling have gotten when it comes to safety concerns. They will not tolerate any practices that cut corner or compromise safety to increase profit margins.

In the more immediate future, the energy and commerce committee of the US Congress has formally accused BP of safety negligence. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the committee is disappointed to learn that BP has repeatedly made risky choices in order to keep up with an incredibly demanding drilling schedule.

As the hearings move forward, BP’s accountability and subsequent consequences will be determined.