Monday 20 April 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon incident in the USA. On the evening of 20 April 2010, a well blowout caused an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig and 11 people lost their lives. It also triggered the largest oil spill in US history.

The formal investigation conducted by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)  concluded that the incident culminated from a complex, closely connected interplay of technical, human, organisational and regulatory factors.

A key theme consistent with investigations of previous major accident hazard events was that there was an insufficient focus on process safety. An imbalanced approach that focuses mainly on personal safety without an equal focus on process safety will not adequately inform a company of its emerging major accident hazard risk.

To illustrate this point, the tragic irony was that when the incident happened:

  1. the Deepwater Horizon rig had just reached the milestone of achieving a total of 7 years without a lost-time injury
  2. a delegation of 4 senior managers were on the rig conducting a safety leadership visit, but their attention was focused on other safety issues and not on the safety critical activities that were occurring during their visit.

Safer Together developed a toolbox talk to commemorate this tragic incident and encourages member companies to pause and reflect on what happened 10 years ago and the lessons for our industry. It’s also a timely opportunity to remind ourselves that, despite the extraordinary circumstances we’re currently faced with as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot take our eye off the ball in relation to managing safety.

The toolbox talk covers:

  1. what happened on that day;
  2. the consequences of the incident, in terms of people, plant, environmental, financial and reputational impacts;
  3. the contributing factors that led to the incident;
  4. thought-provoking questions about whether the issues that led to this tragedy are being effectively controlled today; and
  5. some of the tools available through Safer Together aimed at tackling a range of the issues that led to this particular incident.  

The questions this toolbox talk raises are relevant to all companies and people involved in our industry, not just those that work in a major hazard facility where large quantities of hazardous materials are stored, handled or processed.

Suggested next steps:

  1. How much do you and your team know about the incident? Click here to take a 5-minute quiz to find out. 
  2. Click here to download the toolbox talk. Use it to facilitate a discussion with your team.