Human error caused BP safety to fail?

Investigation into what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig has revealed that vital safety switches were turned off at the time of the explosion. This was a conscious decision because false alarms would wake up the workers.

The alarm systems on the rig at the center of the were switched off according to the chief technician working for Transocean. Transocean is the drilling company that owned the rig.

Turning off the safety switch was done by instructing the computer system not to trigger any alarms if an adverse reading was received. This is why the sound and visual alarms would not go off if the sensors detected dangerous levels of toxic gases, combustibles or fire.

Apparently the bypassing of alarms is not an uncommon practice. This particular alarm had been turned off for almost a year.

Another safety device which was designed to shut down the drill shack in the case of dangerous gas levels being detected had also been bypassed. It has been reported that this safety bypass is standard procedure on the Transocean fleets.

There has been further concern about reports that workers were aware of safety infractions but did nothing in fear of reprisal. A third disclosure at the recent hearings is that the computer system used to monitor the drill shack was constantly freezing up. There was one occasion when the computer provided wrong information. The system did not give a warning that a vital valve inside the blowout preventer had been damaged. The blow out preventer is a device which will shut down the well if there is a problem.

So now it appears that some of the blame is shifting away from BP and focusing on Transocean. When all is said and done it will be a number of different companies who jointly will take their share of liability due to this disaster. It is interesting to note that Transocean's website states under their safety heading, "Our operations will be conducted in an incident-free workplace, all the time, everywhere."