Monday, December 11, 2006

BP's Lord John Browne: Guilty Of Shameful Neglect

Poor Lord John Browne. You gotta feel sorry for him. Here he is "peer of the realm, a captain of industry, a lover of fine cigars and a wealthy man" but, as the Guardian says, his biographers will directly associate him with
one of the most shameful cases of neglect in the history of British business -
the Texas City refinery disaster.
All because 15 workers were killed and 180 injured on his watch.

And, according to the Guardian, "on his watch" is more than a figurative term. According to company documents, Lord Browne was specifically monitoring safety conditions at the BP refinery before the explosion occurred. According to a message written by Texas City's learning and development manager, Dennis Link,
"We have 18 BP refineries in the world. Lord Browne looks at monthly data for 17 of 18 refineries all together. He looks at TCR [Texas City refinery] data separately each and every month!
This was one of the documents released as a result of a settlement with BP by Eva Rowe, both of whose parents were killed in the Texas City explosion.

The Guardian doesn't have many nice things to say about BP or Browne:
Accidents can happen at the best of companies. But documents prised out of BP by bereaved families' lawyers show just how ashamed we should be of Britain's largest enterprise.

There had been 23 deaths at the plant in 30 years. The local fire brigade says there were 50 infernoes a year - one a week.

The blowdown drum that exploded had been involved in eight previous scares.

The refinery's director, Don Parus, felt the place was patched up with "Band Aids and super glue". He told a confidential safety commission before the accident that "killing somebody every 18 months seems to be acceptable at this site" and wondered why his staff turned up for work: "Why would people take the risk, based on the risk of not going home?"

The US Chemical Safety Board has accused BP of a "cheque book mentality" towards safety. Texas City made profits for the company of nearly $1bn annually. Yet BP ordered local managers to slash costs by 25%.

The training budget at Texas City was reduced virtually to nothing. There was no money for a new emergency response system, which BP's fire manager insisted was needed.
The Guardian seems to think that Browne's £3.3m Chief Executive salary last year means that he has "a duty of care to his employees."

I'd say he should have the same duty if he were only paid 1/3 that amout.