BP saw safety problems before Texas blast-document

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HOUSTON, Mar 24 (Reuters) Weeks before a deadly March 2005 blast at BP Plc.'s giant Texas refinery, company officials feared safety failures would lead to deaths at the plant, according to an internal BP planning document obtained by lawyers suing the company on behalf of survivors.

The document, written in early 2005, said a key risk for the 460,000 barrel per day Texas City, Texas, refinery in the following 18 months was that someone would be killed because of poor safety practices.

On March 23, 2005, 15 workers were killed and 170 other people were injured in a massive explosion at the refinery, which the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said was due to failures in safety culture at BP, which operates five US refineries.

''Safety is not being viewed as the No. 1 priority at (Texas City),'' according to the document given to Reuters by the lawyers.

BP has accepted full responsibility for the explosion, saying failures by workers operating the unit where the explosion took place and refinery managers led to the blast.

A company spokesman said he did not have information immediately available about the document.

An attorney for relatives of workers killed in the explosion said the document reveals a warped safety culture where workplace fatalities were accepted.

''The plant safety culture was such that this plant would kill people regularly,'' said attorney Brent Coon.

Reuters DH VP0610

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