CSB to Investigate Deepwater Horizon Blowout

June 22, 2010
In response to a request from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairman John Bresland pledged to investigate the accidental chemical release that destroyed the rig – but also stressed that such an investigation may pose a challenge to the board’s resources.

Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich., sent a letter to CSB on June 8 requesting the investigation.

“We make this request because we believe CSB’s past work on BP puts it in a unique position to address questions about BP’s safety culture and practices,” they wrote, noting in particular CSB’s investigation into the 2005 fatal BP Texas City, Texas refinery explosion and the 2006 BP pipeline leak in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Waxman and Stupek asked CSB to investigate whether the circumstances leading up to the explosion reflect problems in BP’s safety culture; whether cost-cutting and budgetary concerns played a role in BP’s decisions about well design and testing; how BP, Transocean and other contractors assessed changes to process, technology, equipment, personnel, budget and training on the rig; if BP provided adequate oversight of contractors; and whether CSB can draw parallels between this oil rig explosion and the 2005 Texas City explosion.

In his response, Bresland stressed that CSB will make this work a priority and “apply all of our available resources to ensure the best possible investigation.” He added that the process will include key investigators who were involved in the BP Texas City refinery explosion investigation.

He added, however, that this investigation must “be approached without any preconceptions and that all possible underlying factors and causes are thoroughly and objectively examined. Like other CSB investigations, the investigation should include an examination of key technical factors, the safety cultures involved, and the effectiveness of relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards.”

Bresland also noted that CSB will work to avoid duplicating other investigations already planned or underway. He requested the committee’s help in promoting cooperation with other investigations and in ensuring that CSB’s investigation remains independent from potential criminal inquiries.

Difficult Choices

“The CSB plans to focus on events prior to and including the explosion on April 20; we believe that an examination of the response to the disaster and the impact of the ongoing massive oil spill is beyond the CSB’s current resources and abilities,” Bresland wrote.

Bresland also referenced CSB’s high caseload and number of open investigations, and stressed that conducting this new investigation will require “some difficult choices and decisions.”

CSB will need to rapidly conclude some ongoing investigations, terminate smaller investigations and put others on hold, he said. In addition, CSB must temporarily reassign personnel, draw upon its emergency investigative fund and require supplemental funding as needed.

“We recognize that this human and ecological disaster is one of the most significant chemical accidents of the current era,” Bresland wrote. “All of us share your hope that every possible lesson will be learned from this accident so that nothing similar ever occurs again.”

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!