EHS OutLoud Blog

'Safest' Year Ever?

Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig that exploded last year killing 11 workers and causing what has been called one of the worst environmental disasters ever, told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a recent filing that substantial bonuses and raises for top executives were based on the company's "exemplary" safety performance last year.

Quickly backtracking in an effort to avoid public outcry, the company released a statement apologizing for the wording in the 2010 proxy statement, acknowledging, "Some of the wording ... may have been insensitive in light of the incident that claimed the lives of 11 exceptional men last year and we deeply regret any pain that it may have caused."

The company claimed that nothing in the proxy statement was intended to minimize the tragedy or "diminish the impact it has had on those who lost loved ones."

In what has to be one of the worst cases of denial I've ever seen – or one of the most masterful attempts at whitewashing – the SEC statement submitted by the company said: "Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate. As measured by these standards, we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company's history."

If the company considers 2010 to have been an "exemplary" safety performance, I'm horrified at the thought of previous and future years. I think that most employers would acknowledge that the loss of 11 lives hardly qualifies as "exemplary." Here at EHS Today, we pride ourselves on our America's Safest Companies awards program. I can guarantee that Transocean Ltd. won't be winning it anytime soon.

To add insult to injury for the families of the 11 workers killed, Transocean President and CEO Steven L. Newman received a $200,000 salary increase and nearly $375,000 bonus in 2010. His base salary will increase from $900,000 to $1.1 million.

I'm certain Transocean calls it justified and well-deserved. I call it blood money.

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