“Human Factors” mentioned in NYT article referring to massive oil spill

The BP oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico hits close to home for me, literally. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama and my parents are watching the arrival of the spill.

The New York Times published a story about oil industry opposition to regulation and safety and included within a discussion of human factors by a vice president at BP. From the article:

Morrison’s letter said MMS already had safety and environmental regulations in place. He suggested that existing rules could be revised to include a “hazards analysis,” stating that “human factors should be considered in this analysis.”

Morrison said that if MMS were going to rewrite the rules, it should develop a “performance based” rule rather than a “detailed, proscriptive” program.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) called out human factors as an important area:

…MMS said most accidents and spills can be traced to human error or organizational failures and said companies need to ensure safe and environmentally sound operating practices…

MMS regulations historically have focused on proper equipment operation, but the agency said at the time that equipment failure is rarely the primary cause of incidents.

In an effort to regulate the industry, past oil rig accidents were coded as to the recommendations made by the accident reports. These could include requiring: Hazards Analyses, Management of Change, Operating Procedures, & Mechanical Integrity. The definitions for these can be found in the document linked below, but in general it’s important to see how few recommendations concerned mechanical failures.

From the proposed rule by the Interior Department.

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