Think Again

On March 23rd 2005 an explosion occurred at the BP refinery in Texas City. As a consequence 15 people died and hundreds more were injured, and untold damage was done to the reputation and well-being of those responsible. Why did it happen? This workshop brings the events to life and explores how decisions made at the highest levels may have contributed to the disaster.

The Baker report (2007) into the explosion states: ‘Although we necessarily direct our report to BP, we intend it for a broader audience. Other companies and their stakeholders can benefit… we urge these companies to regularly evaluate their safety culture for possible improvements.’ The Baker Panel’s review indicates that prior to the Texas City accident, executive management had been more focused on personal safety than process safety. Letters published in the October 2000 and June 2006 editions of Horizon, BP’s in-house magazine, discuss the Safety and Operations function and other corporate responses to the lessons learned from the Texas City ISOM accident. Browne acknowledged that BP has not been sufficiently clear on process safety.

Culture | Communication | Decision Making | Leadership | Responsibility


DIRECTOR: I’m a tad unsure about the difference between accountability and responsibility.

BROWNE: A responsibility is something which is a part of one’s job. For instance I’m responsible for driving our strategy. Accountability is being held to the consequences. So for instance I am accountable if our share price dives!

DIRECTOR: So when you say everyone’s accountable for safety, and if there was a fatal accident on one of your sites, then you would also be accountable.

BROWNE: We would be responsible for safely operating, and for the safety of the people on our site.

DIRECTOR: ...Right. Bear with me, I must understand this properly...

BROWNE: Must you?

DIRECTOR: So in that event – a fatal accident, accountability would be....?

BROWNE: Everything that happens at that hypothetical site is the responsibility of the plant manager.

DIRECTOR: Ah I see! Responsibility for the fatality is with the plant manager!

BROWNE: I’m not blaming him. But he would be accountable.

DIRECTOR: You said in your piece to camera, ‘Everyone’s accountable for safety.’ But it seems that some are more accountable than others.