July 22, 2010 / 8:30 PM / 9 years ago

Gulf rig worker survey showed safety concerns

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico expressed concern about safety practices a month before the oil rig exploded and sunk, according to a survey conducted by its owner, Transocean Ltd.

Natural gas is burned off a support vessel above the source of Deepwater Horizon oil spill where BP will begin testing a new cap placed over the leak in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Celano

But a summary of the report provided by Transocean(RIGN.S) (RIG.N) concluded that overall safety management on the rig was “relatively strong,” and workers viewed management on vessel in a very positive light.

The safety concerns were first reported in the New York Times, which cited comments in the full survey by workers saying they “often saw unsafe behaviors on the rig” but feared reprisals if they reported mistakes or other problems.

A spokesman for the company said the Times report had taken the criticisms out of context, and had mischaracterized the overall safety culture on the rig.

“Framing this survey solely in a negatively light directly contradicts the inspectors’ clearly stated findings,” the spokesman, Lou Colasuonno, said in an email.

The Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by BP Plc(BP.N) (BP.N), exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering an unprecedented environmental disaster as oil spilled unchecked from the Gulf sea bed for nearly three months.

BP capped the blown-out well last week, choking off the flow of oil for the first time since the explosion. The company is conducting pressure tests to ensure the seal can hold.

The report’s summary said workers aboard the rig felt confident they could approach rig supervisors with their concerns, but that this “was restricted to issues that could be resolved directly on the rig, and that they had little influence at divisional or corporate levels.”

“I’m petrified of dropping anything from heights, not because I’m afraid of hurting anyone (the area is barriered off), but because I’m afraid of getting fired,” one worker wrote in the survey, according to the Times.

“The company is always using fear tactics,” the Times quoted another as saying.

“All these games and your mind gets tired.”

The report summary also showed that one third of the workers on the rig believed the 2007 merger of Transocean and its rival Global Sante Fe had negatively affected safety.

Fewer than half the workers surveyed said they felt they could report without reprisal actions leading to a potentially risky situation, such as workers forgetting to do something, damaging equipment or dropping an object from a height.

The summary by Lloyd’s said that statistic seemed to contradict the reviewers’ appraisal of trust on the rig.

“However, it must be noted that a significant proportion of this is likely to be associated with dropped objects incidents and near-hits, which would align with the reviewers’ findings” of the overall safety culture,” the report summary said.

(Reporting by Matt Daily and David Alexander in Washington; editing by Doina Chiacu and Todd Eastham)

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