March 7, 2012 | Mark Paradies

Disappointing Talk at the IOSH Conference About the Deepwater Horizon Accident

I attended the IOSH Conference in Manchester today and looked forward to hearing new information about the Deepwater Horizon accident. Steve Flynn, VP HSSE at BP, was presenting a talk that was billed to be about the accident.

Instead, most of the talk was about the accident response. Only one slide was about the accident causes, and it was the lame “causal factor” slide from the original BP investigation completed over a year ago.

That investigation has already been discredited because its scope was limited to “immediate” causes and didn’t include generic or management system causes (no organizational factors). Thus, presenting it as a credible listing of the causes really disappointed me (and should embarrass BP).

In addition, Steve said that their report was “very similar” to the other reports that have been produced. I would agree with that only in that other reports have had a similar sequence of events. However, I think other reports have had much more information about the failures of BP’s shore management and on-site supervision that contributed to the accident.

Actually, when I heard about the talk, I was surprised that BP was presenting in public before all the lawsuits were complete. But I was even more surprised by such an uninformative presentation (that added nothing to learning about the accident’s causes) at a prestigious professional society meeting.

So, I was looking forward to a lively post talk question and answer session. I couldn’t believe that an audience of health and safety professionals would let the presentation go by without some difficult questions about the scope of the investigation and the lack of root cause analysis.

Unfortunately, the moderator took all the question and answer time asking about the “PR” failure of BP and a fairly softball question she received by text about “How BP had learned so much from an accident … how could others learn proactively?” She never let anyone in the audience ask even one “live” question.

I expected more from IOSH and more from the speaker.

This was definitely an opportunity lost.

Root Cause Analysis
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