Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cost-cutting, lax oversight blamed for deadly BP blast

From the Houston Chronicle:

Longstanding disregard of safety by BP management on every rung of the corporate ladder caused the fatal March 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery, federal investigators said in a report issued today.

While hourly operators working on the doomed unit made critical mistakes, the deeper, root cause of the blast was management's lack of commitment to safety, largely evident through years of drastic cost-cutting at the refinery while turning a blind eye to repeated warning signs that a catastrophic event loomed, investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said.

"The CSB conducted an examination of corporate safety culture, and we found BP's safety culture to be broken," said CSB lead investigator Don Holmstrom.

And although investigators stopped short of also laying blame at the feet of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, they pointed to years of lax regulatory oversight at the plant, even after numerous fatalities there, and recommended that the agency significantly step up its enforcement of federal safety laws in the petroleum refining industry.

Click here for the rest.

So, I don't think I posted on this at the time of the explosion, but I'm sure that this is what I was thinking. I mean, okay, it's not fair to blame everything on corporate greed and government deregulation, but it was pretty easy and fair to do so in this case and lots of others. After many years of Republican rule, and after many years of a slow-but-sure rightward shift inside the Democrat Party, the corporations essentially run the country. Politicians see themselves more as corporate helpers than as representatives of citizens. Consequently, we're all just fodder if we happen to stand in the way of the big business agenda. Increasingly, just going to work or living in the wrong neighborhood constitutes standing in the way.

Or buying cat food, for that matter.

It really is all part of the same phenomenon, and neither Hillary nor Obama appear to be willing to do much about it. Certainly not McCain or Guiliani.