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CSB issues final reports on Deepwater Horizon investigation; calls for collaboration

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Washington – A series of physical, operational and organizational failures preceded the April 2010 explosion and fire that killed 11 workers and injured dozens more on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent report from the Chemical Safety Board.

CSB released the final two volumes and the executive summary of its staff report April 13, nearly two years after the deadly blast on the Macondo well. The next step in the process will be for CSB board members to vote whether to approve the report. As of press time, a vote had not taken place.

Investigators said the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement needs to strengthen its safety regulations to help prevent similar incidents. BSEE should focus more on risk reduction policies and possible human and organizational factors that play a role in safety, CSB stated in the report. A collaborative approach to safety between regulators, industry leaders and workers is necessary to achieve the best possible results.

“One individual did not cause the Macondo event,” Cheryl MacKenzie, CSB’s lead investigator and human factors specialist, said in a press release. “A multitude of decisions and actions … led to this disaster.

“Zero incidents for a day, month, or even years do not preclude a company from facing a potentially catastrophic incident tomorrow. Compliance isn’t a paper exercise and it isn’t a fixed target. Circumstances – the work environment, technology and the workforce – inevitably change. Companies’ risk reduction efforts must keep up, and BSEE must continually engage industry in proactive ways to improve offshore safety.”

CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland said a “culture shift” is necessary to improve safety.

“Offshore regulations in the U.S. have been moving toward a performance-based approach, but in order for the changes to be effective, there are key regulatory attributes BSEE needs to pursue,” Sutherland said in the release. “These include an adaptable oversight approach that continuously strives to reduce risk, proactive tools to evaluate and monitor safety performance, and meaningful worker participation. Successful safety and risk management will take a tripartite effort by industry, BSEE and the workforce.”

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