Lessons that the Gulf Oil spill taught us

Posted By: Nairita Das
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Washington, Jan 8 (ANI): Following one of the biggest disasters in recent history, BP boss Tony Hayward admitted to his company's insufficient response to the Deepwater Horizon rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico. But was there anything better they could have done to avert the tragedy?

Obama's commission pointed out lack of safety procedures as a determining factor behind the disaster.

"Major accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico could also happen in the North Sea. But strong, organizational barriers between the oil industry, trade unions and the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway reduce the risk," says Preben Lindoe, professor of societal safety and security at the University of Stavanger, Norway.

The researchers compare oil industry regulation in the USA, Great Britain and Norway.

The US regulator, Minerals Management Service, carries out inspections based on a fairly meticulous body of rules. Inspectors are transported to offshore installations, equipped with long and detailed check lists.

Norwegian authorities rely on the companies administering their safety work themselves. The model is based on trust - built up over time.

"The reason this model has succeeded in Norway, is because the parties have been able to fill the concept of internal control with substance. Both employers and unions are involved in developing industrial standards and good practice which can be adhered to," he said.

"When attention fades, accidents happen more easily, and are followed by increased awareness. Societal safety is thus a perpetual Sisyphus effort. It is a big challenge for all organizations to maintain a high level of safety awareness over time," he added.

According to Lindoe and associate professor Ole Andreas Engen, it is common practice in the US to look for scapegoats, and pin the blame for accidents on them, instead of changing the systems.

In Norway, the parties are more likely to come together to find out how systems and routines may have contributed to an employee making a mistake.

The researcher sum up the lessons learned after the Gulf of Mexico disaster:

"The Deepwater Horizon accident has uncovered some evident weaknesses within US safety regulation. The Government being restrained from intervening directly with the industry is one of them.

"To the Norwegian industry, this accident and the near-accident on Gullfaks C, should serve as reminders of the importance of maintaining the foundation pillars of the Norwegian safety management system: Effective and well qualified authorities, and clear guidelines for cooperation and trust between the parties," Lindoe concluded. (ANI)

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