On the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig accident I would like to take this opportunity to remember the 11 workers who were killed as a result of this catastrophic explosion and fire. We also wish to express our condolences to the families and coworkers whose lives will be forever impacted. The CSB’s investigation of this accident continues to examine a number of critical offshore oil and gas process safety issues.
Currently CSB investigators are focusing on evaluating physical evidence, including participating in the first phase of the blowout preventer testing. The CSB continues to face significant challenges in its fact-gathering process including companies and witnesses evading subpoenas for testimony and records and the lack of effective coordination amongst the various organizations involved in the investigation.
The CSB’s independent, root-cause safety investigation began in June 2010. The examination of the adequacy of U.S. offshore regulation included a December 15, 2010, public hearing in Washington, where I welcomed international offshore oil and gas regulators and process safety experts from the U.S., United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, and Mexico. In addition to documenting the lessons learned from prior offshore incidents at this hearing, CSB investigators have now traveled to Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Canada to examine those offshore regulatory systems and complete extensive interviews with overseas regulators. The Board’s partnerships with regulatory and organizational safety experts from Australia and the United Kingdom have strengthened our investigators’ knowledge of various offshore safety regimes.
In the U.S., our investigators continue to assess the offshore safety regulatory regime before the Deepwater Horizon accident through interviews with personnel from the former Minerals Management Service and industry regulatory specialists. CSB investigators are also reviewing new regulations and recent changes that the newly formed offshore safety regulator, the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, has made to improve offshore safety over the past year. The CSB is examining the importance of a competent, independent regulator and of the application of safety regulations to all offshore exploration and production employers including contractors and subcontractors.
The first component of our investigation will focus on these regulatory safety issues to determine if the current and proposed U.S. regulatory scheme can adequately prevent another major accident and protect offshore workers.
The CSB is evaluating the application to offshore major accident prevention of more rigorous safety management systems already in use by the oil industry in other sectors, such as refining. The CSB is examining more effective existing safety standards applicable to key rig equipment, and automatic controls that could implement predetermined corrective actions if operating conditions exceed safe limits. The lack of such controls likely played a role in the accident but have not yet been examined and reported by other investigative bodies. Our investigators are closely examining human factors issues including fatigue, financial incentive programs, pressures related to scheduling and cost containment. The CSB will evaluate the need for effective safety performance indicators to help prevent an offshore tragedy of this magnitude from happening again.
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The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.