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BP condemned over safety standards
A RECENT US report slammed Britain's biggest oil company BP for flouting safety standards in this very dangerous industry. In 2005 chemicals caught fire in BP's Texas City oil refinery. This was the US's worst industrial incident for a decade, killing 15 workers and injured over 170.
The site's director admitted that the refinery was held together by 'Band Aid' and 'superglue' for years before the fatal fire. The fire brigade said there was an average of one blaze a week.
In 2004, a worker was boiled alive there in the 23rd fatal accident in 30 years. Leaky pipes were patched up using temporary clamps and valves. Alarms and instruments were not working properly.
Management focused on keeping production going and the profits rolling in. BP bosses had ordered a 25% saving on costs.
Before that, former owners Amoco had cut maintenance spending by 84% between 1992 and 2000.
BP's funding was too low but spending was not increased until after the 2005 incident.
The US chemical safety board says there is an 'iron-clad case' for pinning some responsibility for the incident on budget cuts.
BP has now been forced to 'clean up' at a cost of £3.5 billion. But BP has been 'cleaning up' for years. Their profits totalled £11 billion last year, rising 25% from 2005 to 2006.
The report said BP's management in London failed to inculcate a culture of "process safety" when highly flammable liquids were being mixed and heated.
The oil giant has got off lightly. Socialists say the whole oil industry - production, treatment, transportation etc - should be run under public ownership with democratic workers' control.
Safety must no longer play second fiddle to huge profits.
In The Socialist 1 February 2007:
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