Sunday, October 30, 2005

Controversy Over BP Panel

The independent panel commissioned by BP to look into the safety culture that caused the March 23 explosion that killed 15 workers at BP's Texas City plant continues to be controversial.

Former Secretary of State James Baker III who heads the panel insists that the panel will be independent and that the told BP Chairman John Browne,
‘You’d better expect an aggressive investigation that will let the chips fall where they may,’” Baker said.

He recalled Browne answering that he would expect nothing less.
Others are a bit more skeptical
“I do not believe you can accurately use the word ‘independent’ in its truest definition to describe this panel hired by BP,” said Allan R. Jamail, an official with Pipefitters Local 211, which represents about 30 BP employees.

“This is BP’s own investigative panel bought and paid for by BP,” he said. “And from what I can see, it looks like about the best panel BP’s money can buy.”

BP is paying for the panel as required by its agreement with the safety board. Panel members will receive $100,000 each for their work, and the company will cover all expenses.
A local USW member was more critical:

"(Baker) may be good at fixing elections, but fixing problems in a refinery? I am not so sure,” the high-ranking union leader said, referring to Baker’s role in representing President George W. Bush during the 2000 election ballot recounts in Florida. “I think most of us look at this panel as a joke. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t have much confidence in what this panel will find."
USW Health and Safety Director Mike Wright is witholding judgment until the panel issues its final report:
“The proof of the panel will be in the final report it offers,” Wright said. “We very much want (the panel members) to hear from us.

“But our judgment will be reserved for what the panel says in its report.”


The USW has been critical of BP, saying it placed too much blame on employees and not enough focus on faulty equipment and lack of management oversight in safety issues.

Much of its effort has been directed at urging BP to rehire three union members who were fired in connection with the incident that led to the fatal blasts.

Wright said the union was encouraged that Irv Rosenthal, the former CSB board member who is a senior fellow at the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Process Center, had been selected to join the panel. Rosenthal had been working with the USW on the union’s investigation into the March 23 incident.

In addition, The Daily News confirmed that the head of the USW’s Triangle of Prevention safety program and a former Texas City Amoco employee, Glenn Erwin, will be named to the 11-member panel. Erwin has been critical of BP’s lack of recognizing past problems and doing little to fix of even investigate them.

He has also taken the company to task for not doing a good enough job following up on near-miss incidents that often are precursors to major events.