Houston: BP and the drilling contractor that operated the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon were so focused on worker safety they didn't do enough to prevent major hazards, such as the 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people, federal investigators said.

The preliminary findings were presented by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a panel that often probes industry accidents but does not have regulatory authority.

The panel listed a litany of problems large and small they had already uncovered even though it has not received all of the records from Transocean, the drilling contractor that has challenged the board's right to investigate the offshore incident.

Among the panel's findings: BP and Transocean's "bridging document," designed to align safety procedures between the companies, was generic and addressed only six safety issues, but none of them dealt with major issues.

The companies didn't have key process limits or controls for safe drilling.

There were no written instructions for how to conduct a crucial test at the end of the cementing process, one that ultimately was misinterpreted by the crew after it was conducted several times, each time differently.

Similar concerns about too narrow a focus on personal safety were raised after an explosion in 2005 at BP's Texas City refinery that killed 15 people, but few of the panel's recommendations were implemented on the offshore rig.

"It's always puzzled me why a company like BP that has major resources available is involved with two of the biggest accidents," said John Bresland, a member of the board who is wrapping up his second five-year term and was involved in both investigations.

The panel noted the focus on personal injuries at the expense of the larger risks associated with drilling appears to infect the entire industry.

Even after the catastrophic blowout on the Deepwater Horizon that caused the biggest offshore oil spill in US history, oil executives used low personal injury rates to highlight the industry's safety record, the investigators concluded in their 50-page Power Point presentation.

The panel found that the intense focus on personal safety has led to "complacency on major hazards," panel member Cheryl MacKenzie said.

The board said there is a difference between worker safety and making sure the entire rig and well are safe, and the latter area is where BP and Transocean were "inadequate."

(Agencies)

Latest News from Business News Desk