Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Seven Hundred Sixty

Prepare to be gobsmacked:

BP's safety violations far outstrip its fellow oil companies. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in the last three years, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas have accounted for 97 percent of the "egregious, willful" violations handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ... OSHA statistics show BP ran up 760 "egregious, willful" safety violations, while Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips each had eight, Citgo had two and Exxon had one comparable citation.
I'm on the floor, and not in a good way.

OK, here's something I don't mention often because, well, I don't really like remembering it: I spent a summer working for a refinery run by Conoco-Phillips (then Conoco). Granted, that was quite a few years ago. Granted, I didn't have the slightest idea what I was looking at or dealing with amid all that noise, stench, heat, machinery, and noxious chemistry.

For about ninety days that felt like 900, I put on my mandatory Nomex coveralls, ear protection, safety glasses, steel-toe boots, and hard hat -- a delightfully comfortable combination in the summers of north central Oklahoma, I assure you -- and did what the regular employees told me to do. Or rather, I tried, or tried to seem to try to carry out the tasks assigned to me, and I was generally ignorant -- blissfully -- of exactly how dangerous it was. I did not fail to notice that the regular employees often stood well clear of whatever they had assigned me to do.

Having seen an oil refinery from the inside and having explored its deepest, darkest, most hazardous keeps (once or twice in breathing gear), the thought that a company can can run the same kind of operation in a way that is magnitudes more dangerous puts me on the floor. I am writing this from the floor.

BP should not exist. BP should serve as a temporary open checkbook from which a massive cleanup is funded and enormous damages are paid, its assets sold off or repurposed or recycled or simply trashed, and then its doors should be barred. Forever.

3 comments:

apophaticattic said...

Totally agree. If you want to piss yourself off even more, take a clear-eyed look at the "clean-up" crews BP has staged for all their photo ops. No protective gear whatsoever. Own clothing. Nearly all Hispanic or African American. These and other clues strongly suggest we are not looking at trained clean-up specialists, but casual labourers and immigrants (with RAKES, for the love of god!) posing for the cameras. Some of them have already started turning up at the hospital with acute respiratory illness. BP claims they have "food poisoning". The medics obviously disagree. BP also claims the sea life washing on shore is due to natural causes.

Absolutely shameless. The executives should be jailed and the company liquidated.

larryniven said...

Wow - so you were almost that poor kid in There Will Be Blood, huh? Oh, how far we've come...

Dale said...

AA, I am having to closely regulate the self-pissing-off when it comes to BP, but thanks anyway. Eventually I'll get up the strength to look at that more closely.

LN, yes, I was almost that guy a few times. It's quite a thing -- in an oil refinery, you can close your eyes, spin around for a random interval, point any direction, and when you take off the blindfold, you'll be pointing at about seventeen brutal ways to die. One of my *safer* days was the day I wrecked my bike on the way in and got some nice road rash on the palms of my hands, which meant I had lighter duty that day.

There were OSHA-mandated signs everywhere. OSHA seems to have an entire wing devoted to oil operations.

Again, I am having to work really hard to wrap my brain around BP's record of "egregious" violations. A violation in an oil refinery can so very easily mean people die. I don't want to think about 760 "egregious" violations. And of course, BP does have a death-toll on its hands to go along with the destruction of the Gulf. It's sad and telling that the 11 (?) people who blew up on the first day of this disaster are basically forgotten.