What Could Have Prevented the BP Oil Spill?

“Learn from the mistakes of the past or you will be doomed to repeat them,” is a mantra often repeated by observers of history. This mantra holds up in many facets of life, from wars to human tragedies, but it holds most true when it comes to learning from mistakes made when responding to manmade disasters.

A prime example of man’s failure to learn from a disaster of their own creation was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The explosion which rocked the oil platform resulted in the loss of 11 precious human lives. Lives that could have been saved if BP Oil, the operators of the platform, had only learned from an earlier disaster, the Piper Alpha oil disaster. In that disaster 167 people lost their lives as the platform sank into the North Sea in 1988. At the time, no one could imagine a similar event occurring over 20 years later.

When comparing the two disasters, the similarities are evident. If BP had taken what was learned from the sinking of the Piper Alpha platform, which was owned by Occidental Petroleum, and applied it going forward, the Deep Horizon disaster might have never happened. The main lesson to be learned from both the Piper Alpha and the Deepwater Horizon is that safety cannot be overlooked in the quest for profit. When employees’ lives are at stake, companies need to utilize all avenues of safety that are available.

This has been an issue when it comes to big corporations and the pressure to be profitable. The first thing to suffer is typically safety issues. As was the case with the BP oil spill, the cancellation of an independent test that would have detected problems with the cement seal led to that seal failing at a critical juncture. It was this same culture of profit over safety that led to inadequate protective measures on the Piper Alpha, inadequacies which eventually led to the death of 167 men and $3.4 billion dollars of damage. The question is, has there been any change since the Gulf Oil spill happened in 2010. If past behavior is any indicator, probably not.

For more information about the study of the BP oil spill, visit: http://yubanet.com/usa/Study-BP-oil-spill-in-Gulf-of-Mexico-2010-could-have-been-prevented.php#.UFZSyFH2jbg