Baker Report Says BP Didn't Emphasize Safety

An independent panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker says oil giant BP failed to emphasize operational safety at its US refineries before a blast at the company's Texas City plant that killed 15 workers in 2005. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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The Baker panel consisted of 11 industry experts and found in its 300-plus page report that BP fell short when it came to creating an effective operational safety culture at its US refineries. This is James Baker.

"The panel found that BP did not ensure, as a matter of best practices, that its management implemented a comprehensive and effective process safety management system. Among other findings, BP displayed material process safety difficiencies at each of its five US refineries and BP had not installed a common unifying safety culture among those refineries."

The candid report found no evidence that BP purposely skimped on safety but instead says the company was focused on the wrong kind of safety, smaller, minor issues instead of larger, operational safety procedures. The Baker report included ten recommendations.

"One recommendation calls for BP to engage an independent monitor for five years to report annually to BP's board of directors on the company's progress in implementing the panel's recommendations."

BP Chief Executive John Browne, who announced last week that he plans to step-down in June instead of at the end of 2008, says the company gets the panel's message loud and clear.

"BP gets it, and I get it too. This has happened on my watch and as chief executive I have a responsibility to learn from what has occurred. I recognize the need for improvement and that my successor Tony Hayword and I need to take a lead in putting that right by championing process safety as a foundation for BP's operations."

So far, BP has settled hundreds of lawsuits stemming from the Texas City explosion, including one last month with Eva Rowe, who lost her parents in the explosion. Her attorney, Brent Coon, says he considers a lot of what Browne said to be lip service.

"If you go back to My Cousin Vinnie, the opening scene with Joe Pesci, when he has to respond to the allegations of the prosecutor, everything that guy just said was something, I'm kind of inclined to think the same. I thought he gave a lot of lip service today, actually seemed to backpeddle from what Secretary Baker said that BP had told him they would do."

You can find a link to the Baker report on our website, KUHF.org.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...