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Workers on Doomed Rig Voiced Concern About Safety

July 22nd, 2010 . by TexasFred

Workers on Doomed Rig Voiced Concern About Safety

WASHINGTON — A confidential survey of workers on the Deepwater Horizon in the weeks before the oil rig exploded showed that many of them were concerned about safety practices and feared reprisals if they reported mistakes or other problems.

In the survey, commissioned by the rig’s owner, Transocean, workers said that company plans were not carried out properly and that they “often saw unsafe behaviors on the rig.?

Some workers also voiced concerns about poor equipment reliability, “which they believed was as a result of drilling priorities taking precedence over planned maintenance,? according to the survey, one of two Transocean reports obtained by The New York Times.

“At nine years old, Deepwater Horizon has never been in dry dock,? one worker told investigators. “We can only work around so much.?

“Run it, break it, fix it,? another worker said. “That’s how they work.?

Full Story Here:
Workers on Doomed Rig Voiced Concern About Safety

I was raised in the oilfields of Louisiana, West Texas and Oklahoma. My Dad had his own cable, wireline and sling service company, and he worked for a very large wireline service for 10 years prior to forming his own company.

I have been away from the oilfield since I was 17 years old, that’s almost 40 years now, and while many things have changed, it appears that concern for human safety and pollution still take a back seat to production.

According to a separate 112-page equipment assessment also commissioned by Transocean, many key components — including the blowout preventer rams and failsafe valves — had not been fully inspected since 2000, even though guidelines require its inspection every three to five years.

The report cited at least 26 components and systems on the rig that were in “bad? or “poor? condition.

Back in the old days, companies had a *Safety Man*. The running joke was, ‘Yeah, he’s our safety man, he wears a belt AND suspenders…” Rig safety wasn’t too high on the list of things to do, it was a cursory inspection, a wink and a nod and off to the local beer joint to talk shop.

Today there may be a bit more emphasis regarding safety on land based rigs, I am too far removed from that aspect of the oilfield to know with any certainty. But I do know this; a friend of my Son was hired to be a *Safety Man* on an offshore rig about 6 years ago. He was 18 years old, right out of high school. How much *stroke* do you suppose an 18 year old kid had on a rig, and it’s workers, company men, contractors and the like? Seriously?

As I said, a cursory inspection, a wink and a nod…

A spokesman for Transocean, who confirmed the existence of the reports, wrote in an e-mail message that most of the 26 components on the rig found to be in poor condition were minor and that all elements of the blowout preventer had been inspected within the required time frame by its original manufacturer, Cameron.

Well, since the Deepwater Horizon is destroyed, 11 men are dead, the Gulf of Mexico is now an oil storage unit and there’s still no REAL solution to this disaster, I would have to think that somewhere along the way, someone missed something. It was probably just some minor little detail that took a back seat to drilling schedules and production dates. No big deal, right?

The spokesman, Lou Colasuonno, commenting on the 33-page report about workers’ safety concerns, noted that the Deepwater Horizon had seven consecutive years without a single lost-time incident or major environmental event.

All that may be well and true, but when they DID have a lost-time incident or major environmental event, it was a really BIG lost-time incident and major environmental event!

The first report focused on the its “safety culture? and was conducted by a division of Lloyd’s Register Group, a maritime and risk-management organization that dispatched two investigators to inspect the rig March 12 through 16. They conducted focus groups and one-on-one interviews with at least 40 Transocean workers.

The second report, on the status of the rig’s equipment, was produced by four investigators from a separate division of Lloyd’s Register Group, also on behalf of Transocean.

Looks great on the surface.

“Almost everyone felt they could raise safety concerns and these issues would be acted upon if this was within the immediate control of the rig,? said the report, which also found that more than 97 percent of workers felt encouraged to raise ideas for safety improvements and more than 90 percent felt encouraged to participate in safety-improvement initiatives.

But investigators also said, “It must be stated at this point, however, that the workforce felt that this level of influence was restricted to issues that could be resolved directly on the rig, and that they had little influence at Divisional or Corporate levels.?

So, maybe, if it was an issue that could be resolved, ON THE RIG itself, something might get done? Or, maybe not…

Only about half of the workers interviewed said they felt they could report actions leading to a potentially “risky? situation without reprisal.

“This fear was seen to be driven by decisions made in Houston, rather than those made by rig based leaders,? the report said.

About HALF of the workers DID fear reprisal? For speaking up and calling BS for what it is? I’ve been there before, recently. :?

Folks, there’s a more lot to this story, many facts are yet to surface, but know this, RIG SAFETY has long been a term that was used to placate the masses. Perhaps this tragic incident will serve to change a few things.

Also, for those not at all familiar with the oil business, even if the most stringent safety restrictions imaginable were put into place, drilling rigs, workover rigs, oil transportation and refinement, all of the oil business is a dangerous business. That is the nature of the beast, and man can only do just so much to tame this beast.

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7 Responses to “Workers on Doomed Rig Voiced Concern About Safety”

  1. comment number 1 by: Kate

    Those 26 minors turned into one MAJOR.

  2. comment number 2 by: Basti

    I worked for over 30 years in a steel mill and it was the same in the mill. You report something unsafe or about to go tits up and the 1st thing you’re asked is, “Can we still work it?”

    Preventive maintenance was not SOP. Run it until it falls apart and then be down a week or more fixing all the other stuff that was broken when the main thing went tits up.

    And yes we had people killed and seriously hurt because the company put profit before safety. You could get the union safety man and OSHA involved, but they were both a joke. I’m thinking both were bought off by the company.

    Profits always come before safety or at least that’s what I’ve found to be true.

  3. comment number 3 by: BobF

    I can imagine many of the workers did fear reprisal to probably include having an accident at night and falling into the ocean.

    Stupid congress calls the executives and CEO to find out what is going on. That’s just like when they call Generals to find out what’s happening on the battlefield. CEO’s and Generals only know what they’re told. If you really want to know what’s taking place, talk to the NCO’s and junior officers or the oil rig workers.

  4. comment number 4 by: TexasFred

    BobF — BINGO!

  5. comment number 5 by: Bloviating Zeppelin

    And therein lies the DISCONNECT in every business and organization — public and private. How many “leaders” DO take the time to find out what REALLY occurs in their agencies and businesses?

    Damned few. BobF has a great point. My agency is a perfect example. I just had to lay off a guy on my shift about a half hour ago. Was the Sheriff here to do it himself? Of course not.


  6. comment number 6 by: HoosierArmyMom

    Well said BobF. I personally see no improvement in the future because you rarely see accountability any where near the top of any organization, but heads do tend to roll… at the bottom of the chart!

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