The news coverage of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico seems to be narrowing in on blame and response.
But anyone responsible for planning industrial or field operations is supposed to know that engineering safety in is the best way to go. Once upon a time, machines were regularly designed with belts to transfer power. It was too easy to get fingers and clothing caught in those belts, so belt guards were added, and now, for the most part, other methods are used.
The out-of-control oil well, for a time, was emblematic of the industry. But that was a waste of oil, of the pressure that drove the oil, and, oh yes, sometimes killed people as the equipment used to drill the well blew out along with the oil. Or the associated gas exploded. Definitely the kind of thing, like losing a hand in a belt, that might get someone thinking there was a better way to do it.
And there is. There are mechanisms called blowout preventers that can be installed, and methods of drilling that prevent those spectacular oil fountains. So where was BP's blowout preventer? They claim it was installed and failed to work. Was it installed properly? Was it engineered for this application? Did the people at work at the time know how it operated?
It's impossible, as we have seen time and again, to clean up a spill in water. As the videos of this latest spill show, choppy seas have rapidly cut up the oil into ribbons. The ships deploying booms are pathetically small in comparison.
Apparently there are questions about another operation that was done just before the rig's explosion.
If it's necessary to fix blame, as it will be at some point, it should go to those who failed to engineer safety into their operations, or those who failed to enforce the regulations that require that safety. That's where the media should be looking.