BP has signed an agreement with the US government that obliges the oil giant to introduce comprehensive management information systems to tightly regulate maintenance and safety processes.
The agreement follows allegations of continued safety failures at its Texas City refinery after an explosion in 2005, that killed 15 workers and injured 170. The sum comprises a $50.6 million (£32.3 million) settlement and $500 million (£319 million) promised spending to fix safety problems at that refinery alone.
It is understood that BP’s key Operating Management System, developed by the company in-house and built around Microsoft SharePoint and Performance Point, will be a centrepiece of management information and process control efforts. BP did not respond to requests to provide details.
But three weeks ago, as BP sealed off the ruptured well that led to the separate Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it cast doubt on the OMS system. BP warned “there can be no assurance” that OMS would identify all risks or provide information on the right actions to take when things go wrong in its plants or rigs.
OMS was introduced as the company’s central safety system following the 2005 Texas City explosion. The system is being implemented across BP operations in locally-tailored modules, following global standards. It is now in all US sites and will be rolled out by the end of the year to the remaining few sites elsewhere. It helps integrate local standards and management systems, set priorities, define processes and measure performance, and is accessible on BP PCs as well as mobile devices used by engineers at plants and on oil rigs.
Under the new agreement, signed with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, BP will begin safety reviews of the Texas City refinery equipment according to clear schedules. There will also be “an unprecedented level of oversight” into BP’s safety changes, the OSHA said.
BP has agreed to adhere to the OSHA’s process safety management standard, which attempts to reduce the risk of “catastrophic chemical releases”. The OSHA said that under this standard, BP would have to implement “comprehensive management systems” to prevent or minimise the consequences of such events happening. OSHA will have full access to BP's safety management systems and insisted it would “closely monitor” their development and use.
US Labour Secretary Hilda Solis said the $50 million penalty and the $500 million expenditure agreement “rightly reflects BP's disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law”.
“By reaching this agreement, BP is accepting an unprecedented level of oversight over key aspects of their process safety management system at the Texas City refinery,” added Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labour for the OSHA.
“This gives OSHA far more insight into the safety procedures and critical systems at the plant than would have been achievable even if we had won the lawsuit [instead of reaching a settlement agreement].”
Additionally, BP faces a potential $30 million fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission if the body proves an additional 439 continued “wilful violations” of safety. The oil company contests the allegations.
BP has already spent $1 billion since 2005 to improve safety at the refinery. Steve Cornell, head of the company’s US refining business, said: "We have significantly improved the safety of our operations at Texas City over the last five years and are determined to carry this effort forward effectively in the future.”