The CSB’s Role in Industrial Accidents

With recent reports that British Petroleum (BP) ignored warning signs and potential risks that led to last spring's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the troubles of the oil industry giant may not be over. In addition to the $10 million benzene class action suit filed in August, the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is now on the case.

The CSB, established in 1990, was formed to investigate root causes to chemical accidents. While the independent agency typically collaborates with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), Congress has asked CSB to become involved in the offshore incident investigation. Even though it has no true regulatory authority or responsibility, the CSB still garners a reputation for offering a thorough analysis of incidents.

The CSB has a history with BP. In 2005, following a BP explosion that killed 15 oil workers and injured 170 others, CSB's method defined the standard for examining industrial mishaps.

It's estimated that 35,000 American adult workers are killed each year and hundreds of thousands more are injured each year.

As for the BP probe, controversy has already surfaced. While the CSB involvement was forecasted this summer, earlier in November the independent board threatened to sue for access to forensic data that is being collected as part of other ongoing investigations. Attacks on the United State's Coast Guard and the Interior Department responsible for offshore drilling regulations are blocking the CSB's efforts. The CSB's efforts are supported by other stakeholders who want an unbiased investigation.

As attention continues to be focused on BP and the Deepwater Horizon industrial incident, the rest of the world will have to wait and see who will get access to the evidence and the last word on BP's culpability. While the CSB is a player in the investigation, there is hope that light will be shed on the circumstances which led to one of the worst environmental incidents in recorded history.