”Be afraid…” – HSE Chair warns the energy industry

‘Never allow short-term business pressures to blind you to the real and potentially devastating human and business consequences of neglecting process safety and asset integrity’, is the warning the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive gave to an international audience of oil and gas experts.

Judith Hackitt, a chemical engineer, with more than 25 years’ experience in industry, spoke about the importance of properly maintaining ageing on and offshore facilities, at an Energy Institute seminar during the International Petroleum Week conference in London.

Drawing on the lessons learned from numerous catastrophes, including the explosion at the BP Texas City refinery in 2005, Judith raised the importance asset integrity and process safety leadership across all sub-sectors of the energy industry. She emphasized that the problems are similar and that solutions should be shared across the whole industry.

Judith Hackitt said:
“If there is one thing we should have learned from Flixborough, Bhopal, Piper Alpha, Buncefield and Texas City, it is that lack of injuries and near misses is no guide whatsoever that all is well in process safety terms. Indicators which point to the absence of a problem – so far – say absolutely nothing about what might be about to happen.

“Short-term business pressures drove BP to cut capital expenditure at its Texas City plant by deferring projects and failing to monitor the subsequent impact of this. This had a dramatic impact on the repair and maintenance program at the site and was a significant factor in the catastrophic explosion in 2005.

“Asset integrity is not simply about securing profitability and operational continuity. This is serious stuff. When we cease to be afraid of the potential for human suffering and devastating business consequences of a major incident in any of the industries represented here today, we lose sight of why it really is so important that we take this matter seriously.”


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