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One of the prime issues facing employers in public and private institutions currently is the wellbeing of their employees and clients. Industrial accidents at place of work are progressively more frequent. In 2003, for example, there was a report by the bureau of labor Statistics which indicated that a sum total of 4.4 million nonfatal accidents occurred at place of work in private firms (U.S House of Representatives, 2009) compared to 863 000 injuries reported in the State and local government sector (U.S Department of Labor, 2009). Firms have an ethical responsibility to guarantee the security and safety of their staff and clients. Firms’ conduct that foster safety; can also assist in establishing a rivalry advantage by costs reduction and abiding by the laws regarding safety. Safety at workplace can be relatively costly. Injuries that are unintentional alone amount to more than $146.6 billion per annum for costs related to medicine and insurance suites, compensation to workers, benefits to survivors, loss of wages or salaries, damaged gadgets and substance, reporting of accidents and employee replacement.
The state and central regimes firmly control safety conducts within the organization. Safety violations are considered seriously by the state as fines and consequences subjected to them are strict. Moreover, criminal charges can be pressed against the employers who violate these laws. In this case study, the health and safety ethics are going to be analyzed and recommendations provided for the managements’ course of action.
Shell and B.P oil firms running in the North Sea are currently failing to run the rigs and other equipments in the offshore to required principles. The accidents statistics speculated in the last one year indicate remarkable swell in predicaments. There is a huge opinionated and ecological storm after the explosions in the deep water. Besides, the company has not maintained the fabric constituents of the Magnus fittings at the offshore. For instance, walkways and gratings have not been installed. Moreover, Shell has failed to execute sufficient control standards within the transportable water structure to avert contact to legionella bacteria. Their pipeline emergency shutdown valves are having defects which resulted into 167 workers’ death from fire. There were claims that the safety of the oil company had been tampered with after machinists lacerated payments for employees in the drill rig, in reaction to oil costs of less than $ 35 (Cho, 2004, p. 12)
The general secretary to the oil company, Jake Molley claimed that the workers in the drilling department had been sold out. He claimed that they go through training and perform the duties but in return they receive huge massive cuts. This is not proper for the organization’s cultural safety on the rigs.
BP’s report revealed the exploding and sinking of the deep water horizon in April which killed 11 men. The report removed blame on the company for any grave negligence. However, many people felt the firm should critically investigate its own design of the well. This is a clear evidence of absence of elaborate safety barriers in the well. The blame went to BP claiming that the firm did not use a good design to avert the accidents. Moreover, the accident caused an oil spill which presence various risks to the aquatic life and those who depend on it for a living. The accident not only affected the company, but also affected other stakeholders directly or indirectly. The accident may be viewed to be multi-contributing factor to the fishing industry. The aquatic life which is harvested is largely affected as most of them die due to water pollution. Conversely, lack of proper preparation contributes to such accidents. With the numerous accidents, the US federal government imposed a ban on the deep water drilling to avoid the accidents and to impose new regulations concerning oil industries.
Consequently, there were so many costs and liabilities encountered by the firms for failure to observe the safety and health measures. Regulations like oil drilling ban, risks to employees through death and injury and time lost as a result of the ban. This is costly to the firm, considering the loss of revenues and profits in the long run due to violation of the safety standards.
The firms continually shifts blame towards each other as to the causes of the accident, as BP puts their blame on poor job done by the cement contractor Halliburton and mistakes by Rig operator Transocean.
The possible causes of the Rig oil spill and explosion
In spite of laws that have been enacted to maintain safety at the place of work, most of the U.S. private and public firms’ accidents are out of control. In 2002, the estimated eighty million days of work were lost by workers in relation to injuries while more than 3.7 million workers got disabled while on duty. The causes of these accidents may not be different in relation to the case study in this task. They may be grouped into three categories which comprise of; errors by the employees, deficiency in equipment and inadequacy in procedures.
Errors by Employee may arise as a result of misjudging situations, interference from colleagues and malfunction of neuromuscular. Some may be caused by improper working positions and consciously use of defective facilities. For the case study in discussion it is clearly stated from BP audit report that the cementing of the well was not done accordingly. The cementing contractor did not factor in the cement barrier in isolating the hydrocarbons. This might have been intentionally or unintentionally without considering the impending danger. The hydrocarbons were allowed to escape through the cemented annulus which when combined with nitrogen hell broke loose. The team that was investigating made a conclusion that presence of weaknesses in the cement design and testing, quality assurance and risk assessment was a major contributory factor. This was an error from the employees hired by the company.
Deficiency in equipment is another causative factor. Improper use of equipment, removing safety devices and absence of certain items like engineering reins, respiratory guard and defensive clothing largely contributes to the probabilities of accidents. For instance, the shoe track that was installed in the wellbore had flaws which failed to prevent escape of hydrocarbons that caused the explosion and the oil spill. The team investigating made conclusions that the hydrocarbons engrossed through the shoe track, and that it was not a failure in the production of the casing itself.
Deficiency in the procedures for the looming peril, improper procedures for material handling and absence of laid down procedures may severely lead to serious accidents at the place of work. The Transocean rig party and BP well site managers did not complete the procedures in testing the well integrity and its success. The same parties did not identify or take actions to manage the well until hydrocarbons had conceded through to the riser. Last but not least, the emergency modes were not successful in sealing the well. All this possible factors did have a contribution to the explosion and the eventual oil spill (Deep water Horizon accident Report, 2010)
What the Law say about safety practices at the workplace
The central government laws standardize the most organizational safety conducts. The occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 covers a wider range of legislations in this subject. This applies to almost all U.S places of work. The main objectives of the Act are towards making certain of the conditions for working for every employee in America. This done through:
Enacting and imposing the standards at the work place both in private and public sectors
Promotion of educational programs which are sponsored by the employer to enhance safety and health
Stipulating and emphasizing on the importance of employer in keeping records in relation to work place concerns on safety and health issues (Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents, 2003).
The Act put in place three distinct agencies to reinforce the above standards. These include:
The occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to build up and put into effect health and safety principles.
The National institute for occupational safety and Health carries out health and safety study to propose new principles and refresh the old ones.
The occupational safety and Health Review Commission to get petitions from owners who would like to challenge OSHA verdicts (Nash, 2004, p. 11).
Various safety and health principles have been issued by OSHA in matters concerning personal protection gear, fire safety, and safety on electricity, housekeeping and machine safeguards. The principles pronounce such specification as monitoring prerequisites, ways of conformity, allowable publicity boundary, and individual protective gear, hygiene gadgets, training and keeping of records.
Public and Private firms with more than 10 workers are conditional on regular OSHA check ups, while those with less than 10 workers are spared, but can be examined if a safety related issue is put forward to OSHA’s attention. Industries which are highly hazardous like oil industry are conditional on OSHA scrutiny not considering the number of workers in the company. The jurisdictions of OSHA are based on the following issues:
Top precedence is provided to conditions which present an impending risk of death or severe injury to workers. The firm must make instantaneous counteractive feat.
The second precedence is given to locations that have encountered an accident that has resulted into one or more to die or hospitalized. This must be reported by employers or relevant agents of a public institution within 8 hours. This is meant to establish as to whether any violations were made to the OSHA principles.
The third priority is directed towards complaints by employee concerning risks and violations. The severity of the complaint determines the frequency of OSHA”s response.
Regards are also provided to referrals of hazard facts from the central government and local agencies, private persons, companies and the media.
Most of the time, OSHA comes back to give assurance that the violations have been rectified (Colbert, 2007)
Recommendations to Shell and BP on their safety and Health measures at work place
Despite employees knowing much about safety and Health standards, they will often involve themselves in conducts that may lead to accidents. Therefore employers and the government must shift their attention from prevention of accidents to prevention of actions that lead to accidents.
It is necessary therefore for SHELL, BP and other government owned firms to carry out a safety audit using their safety committee, which will be entitled to be the watchdog of the workers while on duty (Kleiman, 2000). The monitoring and evaluation should be done on daily basis, putting in mind that any mistake done in a second can result into huge fire accident which can lead to so many casualties. (Stewart, 2005, p. 11) Oil products are generally highly flammable which explains why. The safety committee watchdog on safety must:
Be on the look out on any precarious conducts which the employee must rectify instantly before entering an area. For example, wearing protective equipment like gas masks and gloves (Juergens, 2004, p. 95).
Observe whether defensive clothing is being put on. For instance, life jackets when entering the sea.
Keenly look out how the workers use the tools. For instance, use of the oil drillers.
Examine the security of the area of work. For example, the texture of the floor, whether slippery or not.
The dialogue should assist workers to identify and rectify the perilous performances. (Taylor, 2005)During the discussion, Shell, BP any other private or State owned firm must engage the employees to accustom to these pieces of advice:
To always be on the look out for risky acts and to avoid confrontation. They should rather kindly question the individual as to his knowledge of the possible consequences of the acts.
All workers must be encouraged to discuss any concerns on safety and should ask questions and present ideas on how to upgrade safety standards where they feel it is necessary (Behm, 2009, p. 43).
Good actions observed must be commended.
The findings must be put on paper any issue talked about in the audit that needs a further pursuit must be aIDressed as such. This is to avert similar incidences. The cases that were never reported, which were viewed as near misses, should be probed further to prevent any fatal accidents. Supervisory must be done by professional experts when dealing with high profile investigations (Behm & Vetri, 2008 p.617). In a case where there is an accident the expert investigating must ascertain employees’ security. This can be done through various methods such as:
Immediate medical attention for the injured where possible.
Protection against a possible secondary danger through evacuation and removal of the origin of the danger.
Barring access to the area to avert further injury and to prevent interruption at the scene.
Moreover, all substances and facilities must be labeled to enable employees identify the most hazardous substances or buildings. They should be highly trained in matters concerning which are the restricted areas and what to do and what not to do in the hazardous zones in the organization. All facilities labeled must have the necessary cautions as to signs of danger which may be spotted by the employee. The private or public organization must develop a system of putting in inventory the dangerous materials. As required by the law, all containers of these materials must be labeled and information provided to the personnel on how to go about in storage of these materials in safe conditions (Toellner, 2001, p.43).
It is noted that often than not, most employers of private and public sectors violates the OSHA standards such as not having written programs on hazards, lacking the latest chemical inventory list and failing to label the chemical containers (Das, et al., 2008, p. 527). Some organizations fail to train the personnel more about the chemicals they operate with. This should not be the exception of Shell, BP and other State owned oil companies, as it is understood that oil products are highly dangerous. Failure to put in place such measures jeopardizes the safety and health standards of the employees which may highly be considered a criminal offence (Pearse, Gallagher & Bluff, 2001).
Efficient combination of attentiveness of the employer and the accountability of the employee ensures high standards of safety at the place of work. With proper training, employer engagement and organizational abidance to the OSHA laws and guidelines can largely offset the financial and physical costs and reduction of injuries. Safety assurance is significant not only for every firm and place of work, but also for overall industry and national well-being of the economy. Employees’ safety must be paramount in making rules and regulations at the work place. It is evident from the discussion that poor auditing of the rig resulted into the unfortunate accident that claimed the lives of 11 people injuring many others. Therefore it is through auditing, preventive measures can be taken to avert the hazards involved.
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