The Importance of a Safety Culture in High Reliability Organizations

By Rob Adlam

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Report to the President captures perfectly the failure to address risk during drilling operations on the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico:

 ‘The well blew out because a number of separate risk factors, oversights, and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards meant to prevent just such an event from happening. But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure—a failure of management. Better management by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean would almost certainly have prevented the blowout by improving the ability of individuals involved to identify the risks they faced, and to properly evaluate, communicate, and address them. A blowout in deep-water was not a statistical inevitability.’[1]

 In order to address risk in the complex, high reliability environment of oil and gas, it is essential that companies strive to foment a safety culture through effective leadership.  The National Commission report cites a failure of management as the key factor, however leadership is the key to developing and maintaining a culture of safety under pinned by thorough management.    

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[1] National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  January 2011, P 90