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    Panel Finds Dangerous Conditions At BP's U.S. Refineries

    The safety problems are not unique to BP, report says.

    HOUSTON -- All five of BP Plc's U.S. oil refineries have significant safety problems due to company complacency, an investigative panel said in a report released Tuesday.

    "Instances of a lack of operating disciplines, toleration of serious deviations from safe operating practices, and apparent complacency toward serious process safety risks existed at each of the U.S. refineries," the independent panel said in a news release.

    It recommended that the British oil major overhaul safety procedures at all its U.S. refineries based on the dangerous conditions found at all the plants.

    The panel, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, was convened after an explosion at BP's Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured 170 on March 23, 2005, in the worst U.S. industrial accident in 10 years, Reuters reported.

    The investigation found significant safety culture issues existed throughout BP's U.S. refining network as the company emphasized personal safety, but neglected process safety risks that could result in major accidents, according to Reuters.

    The panel said BP should "clearly define expectations and strengthen accountability for process safety performance at all levels and in executive management and in the refining managerial and supervisory reporting line." In addition, BP should engage an independent monitor to report annually to its board of directors on the implementation of the panel's recommendations for five years, the Baker investigation concluded.

    BP, which has been beset by other problems at its U.S. operations, including oil spills in Alaska and accusations of market manipulation, said it would adopt the recommendations.

    BP chief executive John Browne, who announced last week that he would be leaving the company this summer -- 17 months earlier than planned -- said he understands there were serious safety problems at the company's U.S. oil refineries, and that BP was doing everything possible to prevent another major accident, Reuters reported.

    "BP gets it, and I get it too …Our progress has been encouraging but there is much more to do. Members of our refining leadership team will be meeting with the panel within the week to address how to implement those recommendations," Browne said in a statement released after the panel made its recommendations public.

    "This has happened on my watch, and as chief executive I have the responsibility to learn from what has happened," Browne noted at a news conference.

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    The safety problems are not unique to BP, the Baker report said, adding that other refiners also could benefit from the findings. "If other refining and chemical companies consider our recommendations and apply them, we believe that those workplaces will be safer and that future tragedies like the Texas City accident can be avoided."

    The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has said it hopes the report will reverberate throughout the industry. "Corporate leadership at the highest level is accountable for the safe operation of facilities that use hazardous chemicals. Safety culture is created at the top, and when it fails there, it fails workers far down the line. That is what happened at BP," said CSB chairwoman Carolyn Merritt.

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