Workers on Deepwater Horizon Worried About Safety Before Oil SpillJul 22, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
A survey commissioned by Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, indicated many workers aboard were concerned about safety in the days prior to the April 20 blast that killed 11 crew and spawned the worst oil spill in US history. According to The New York Times, another Transocean report shows that many key components on the offshore rig had not been fully inspected in nearly a decade.
BP was leasing the doomed rig from Transocean, and 79 of the 126 people on the rig the day it exploded were Transocean employees, The Times said.
The survey was conducted by Lloyd’s Register Group which sent two inspectors to the rig between March 12 through 16. According to The Times, they conducted focus groups and one-on-one interviews with at least 40 Transocean workers.
Among other things, workers voiced concerns about equipment reliability, which they felt was the result drilling priorities taking precedence over planned maintenance, The Times said. “Run it, break it, fix it,” one worker said. “That’s how they work.”
The second report cited by The Time was produced by a different division of Lloyd’s Register Group. It listed 26 components and systems on the rig that were in “bad” or “poor” condition. Some, including the blowout preventer rams and failsafe valves, hadn’t been inspected since 2000, The Times said.
While most workers said that safety concerns were addressed as best as possible on the rig, they were worried about the reaction of managers on shore. Only about half of the workers interviewed said they felt they could report actions leading to a potentially “risky” situation without reprisal. The report said such fears were “seen to be driven by decisions made in Houston.” Most of the workers believed that Transocean’s system for tracking health and safety issues on the rig was “counter productive.”
Because of their fears, the report said many workers entered fake data to try to circumvent the system, known as See, Think, Act, Reinforce, Track — or Start, distorting the company’s perception of safety aboard Deepwater Horizon.
According to The Times, investigators found a number of mechanical problems aboard Deepwater Horizon, including:
• Problems with the rig’s ballast system that they said could directly affect the stability of the ship
• At least one of the rig’s mud pumps was in “bad condition.”
• The rig’s malfunctioning pressure gauge and leaking parts
• The decision by workers to use a type of sealant “proven to be a major cause of pump bearing failure.”
According to The New York Times, the two reports echo concerns raised by a BP audit of the rig in September 2009. That audit found that Transocean had left 390 maintenance jobs undone.