Put safety first, and profits will follow

Last month, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued its report on the deadly blast at BP’s Texas City refinery in 2005. The industrial accident, the largest since 1990, killed 15 people and injured many more.

The report called attention to safety and process management improvements as a way to prevent such tragedies. I couldn’t agree more, and wanted to add a critical point I’ve learned from my years in the field.

Cost-cutting and poor planning during project management costs operators dearly in the long run. Refineries, like any other business, want to spend less and save more. But employee and building safety shouldn’t be sacrificed to reach the goal.

Tighter regulations and stricter test/inspection mandates are important for keeping workers safe, and running facilities smoothly. So make certain you follow them, and stay updated on all safety requirements.

Yes, keeping your employees and facilities in line with all safety standards can cost a pretty penny. But running damage control, rebuilding the refinery, and settling claims' with victims' families will require even more financial and emotional capital.

It’s better to be proactive with upfront expenditures -- and reduce the chance of tragedy -- than be reactive after a deadly event, and dig the company into a financial hole.

The lesson: Address safety and operations issues on the front end. Procrastination leaves companies open to accidents with disastrous consequences, a situation no conscientious organization wants to face.

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