The Weekly Reflektion 11/2022

‘I get it’ said Boris Johnson as he responded to the criticism over the Downing Street Parties in January 2022. ‘BP gets it’ said then Chief Executive following the BP Texas City Refinery disaster in March 2005. In April 2010 there was the blow out on the BP Macondo well.

After the parties Boris said ‘I get it’

Do you get it?

Parties in 10 Downing Street that took place during strict COVID-19 restrictions received significant attention in the media in January/February 2022. The thought of politicians and civil servants having fun together while everyone else was told to comply with the restrictions, caused public outcry. One rule for them and another for us was a common perception. The figure of the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral the day after one of these parties emphasized the feeling of one rule for the people and another for the Prime Minister and his friends and colleagues. In one of his many statements in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated, ‘I get it’. This seems to convey a message of, ‘I understand why you are upset; I regret what I have done, and I promise to do something about it so that it does not happen again’. The implication is that Boris Johnson has learned his lesson, however has he learned? Will he change and will he put in place changes that will prevent this type of incident reoccurring? 

We often cover the Texas City refinery disaster on 23rd March 2005 in our Reflektions. There is so much to learn. Following the disaster John Browne, then Chief Executive of BP, made a statement after the investigation report into the disaster was published. In the statement Browne said, ‘BP gets it’. What did this mean? For example, I understand what has happened and why it happened; I regret the fatalities and injuries and have sympathy with the people affected by the disaster, I will do everything in my power to ensure that another disaster does not happen in BP’s operation. BP will learn?

On 20th April 2020 the Macondo well, operated by BP, blew out and the resulting explosion and fire on the rig Deepwater Horizon resulted in 11 fatalities and the loss of the rig. These two incidents were different, however one of the common factors was the management focus on personal safety and failure to focus on process safety. Process safety in this context is the systems in place to prevent a Major Accident. In Norway this would mean the barrier management system and the assurance that the barriers meet their performance requirements. There is little doubt that BP made changes following Texas City. However, it seems these changes did not extend to the Drilling Department and drilling operations. Perhaps the term ‘process safety’ was considered relevant for facilities and not relevant for drilling and well operations.

‘Walk the talk’ is often used to emphasise the importance of the management setting an example for the people in the organisation to follow and of course this is important. The management is also responsible for learning from incidents and accidents and ensuring this learning is applied across the company and not just in selected parts. If you ‘get it’, do you know how to ‘fix it’?

Reflekt AS