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Michaels: Deepwater spill shows injury data not a good indicator of safety

June 24, 2010

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Hours before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and killed 11 workers, BP honored its workers for seven years of no lost-time injuries, which highlights how such a measurement for safety is not useful, OSHA administrator David Michaels said Wednesday at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on safety at oil rigs and during spill cleanup efforts. Michaels said OSHA needs to focus not only on compliance but also on a company's decision-making that can lead to "low probability, high-consequence events."

During the hearing, congressmen expressed confusion as to who was in charge of ensuring oil rig safety. Rear Adm. Kevin Cook said oil rigs -- technically sea vessels -- are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard for activities associated with ships, such as navigation. The Minerals Management Service was in charge of drilling operation safety. MMS, also tasked with leasing and revenue collection, recently was renamed and broken up into separate entities for its duties.

Michaels said OSHA has no position on his agency taking over safety oversight of rigs, but did note OSHA currently lacks the resources to do so.

In related news, the Chemical Safety Board announced (.pdf file) last week it would investigate the causes of the rig explosion.



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