In recent news: “Oil and gas companies have been improving safety since Deepwater Horizon”

Petrofac chief executive Ayman Asfari told Sky News that since the Deepwater Horizon incident, the oil and gas industry has been working to improve safety, despite the prospect of diminishing returns as oil and gas becomes harder and more expensive to extract. You can view the Sky News interview here.

Whilst it is hard to verify such claims (it has only been a manner of months since the incident), Deepwater Horizon has of course shone the spotlight on the oil and gas sector harder than ever, but also reminded companies of the potential consequences (most notably financial, costing BP billions of dollars, but also loss of life, environmental and reputational too) that incidents can have.

As already discussed in a previous article on this blog there are some initial indications that poor process safety culture had a leading role in the blast that killed 11 people earlier this year, although investigations are still ongoing.  However, will the findings of these investigations hold any surprises?  Most safety specialists can probably already guess the findings, so there are no reasons why organisations cannot begin improving safety already, as Mr. Asfari indicates they are doing.

The big question is: will this renewed interest in safety make the difference needed?  The list so often quoted (usually followed by ‘never again’) gets ever bigger – Longford, Texas City, Piper Alpha, Deepwater Horizon –  and it is unlikely ever to stop growing completely (although we’d hope that the size and frequency of incidents reduces over time).  Will we see another event on the scale of Deepwater Horizon, or has it finally sunk in that ‘safety pays’?

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