U.S. Regulator: BP Board Failed to Oversee Process Safety Before Fire

March 21, 2007

BP PLC’s board failed to oversee process safety at the company’s refineries prior to a fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery, a U.S. regulator said March 19.

Executive management and BP’s corporate board “either did not get, or failed to respond to process safety audits and risk information,” U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Chairman Carolyn Merritt said.

Although the British oil company frequently assessed risks at its refineries, the focus was on personal safety, rather than process safety, Merritt said in a speech at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association annual meeting. Merritt’s agency was to release its final report into the March 2005 accident that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 on March 20.

In the nearly two years since the fire at BP’s Texas City refinery, the company has created a board for oversight of its U.S. operations and has created a system for keeping its corporate board better informed about safety at its refineries, according to BP documents submitted to an independent commission that reviewed the company’s U.S. operations. BP has also had a shift in management at its executive level, with Chief Executive John Browne announcing plans to retire in the summer of 2007.

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