6 thoughts on “BP, Transocean oppress their workers

  1. * JULY 23, 2010, 1:55 P.M. ET

    Fire Alarm Was Partially Disabled on Oil Rig, Electrician Says

    By RUSSELL GOLD

    The fire- and natural-gas alarm system aboard the Deepwater Horizon was partly disabled on the night the drilling rig caught fire, the chief electrician aboard testified Friday at a hearing outside New Orleans.

    “The general alarm was inhibited,” said Michael Williams, an employee of Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig. He explained that the system that automatically sounded a general alarm had been disabled because rig managers “did not want people woken up at 3 a.m. with false alarms.”

    A fiery well blowout killed 11 workers on April 20th shortly before 10 p.m. and led to the sinking of the rig, which triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

    Mr. Williams testified that the alarm system, if fully functional, was designed to detect a sudden rise in natural gas and would have warned workers in rooms handling heavy drilling fluid to get out before the first of two explosions rocked the rig. Several workers are believed to have died in those rooms.

    The general alarm should also have automatically shut down air vents into engine rooms. When the well blew out, natural gas is believed to have been sucked into the engines, causing them to speed up and explode.

    Fire boat response crews battled the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in late April.

    Mr. Williams, who filed a lawsuit against Transocean in federal court in New Orleans on April 29, said he raised concerns about the alarm to his supervisors. He appeared Friday at a hearing in Kenner, La., which is being conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

    Transocean didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Mr. Williams also said the system was a “wreck” when he started working on the rig in 2009, with many faulty detectors. He tried to repair it, he said, but faced problems with malfunctioning equipment.

    His account comes at the end of a week of testimony before the federal investigative panel that has raised numerous questions about the status of the drilling rig itself—a giant maritime vessel capable of drilling wells while floating atop two-mile-deep water.

    Before this week, much of the public scrutiny has focused on the conduct of BP PLC, which owned the oil well. But Transocean, the Swiss-based owner and operator of dozens of deep-water rigs, has seen its decisions questioned as well.

    The fire-alarm issue could hurt it as the company faces lawsuits, including from the widows of the workers who died, legal experts said. Turning off the fire-alarm system is a very easy-to-understand decision that could hurt Transocean, even if it isn’t clear that anyone would have been saved if a general alarm had sounded.

    “It seems to me this is a serious problem for them,” said Richard Nagareda, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School. “Anytime the plaintiff can pinpoint something that could have been done, they can tap into this idea that if something bad had happened, it must have been preventable.”

    Mr. Williams also described a continuing problem with the drilling controls. The computer system that monitored drilling operations crashed routinely, sometimes freezing up, he said.

    “We were limping along,” he said. Requests had been made to replace the whole system, he said, but computer-system compatibility was being worked out.

    He described a rig that was in need of a long stay in dry-dock to overhaul and replace numerous systems. Mr. Williams said that while repairs were slow to happen, he felt like a growing portion of his time was consumed by paperwork documenting issues.

    “We were starting to feel more like secretaries than maintenance men,” he said.

    Write to Russell Gold at russell.gold@wsj.com

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703294904575385160342490350.html?mod=WSJEUROPE_hpp_MIDDLESecondNews

  2. Pingback: BP polluters’ huge profits | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: BP report on Gulf disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Transocean’s small fine for BP oil disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Bonuses for Gulf oil disaster fat cats | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: ‘BP lied about Gulf oil spill’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s