The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico Largely Due to Communication Failures


In 2010, news stations across the nation discussed London-based British Petroleum (BP) for months, and while some might claim that all publicity is good publicity, this was hardly good news. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused 11 deaths, vast environmental repercussions, and damages in the tens of billions, both for Gulf Coast economies and BP itself.

While a number of factors contributed to the largest marine oil spill in the history of the industry, one particular aspect of it plagues many businesses: communication failures.

Three major companies were implicated in the disaster: BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig; Transocean, which owned the rig and leased it to BP; and Halliburton, a contractor of BP. Among these three companies, important information seemed to get lost in the process. BP implemented adjustments to the rig and its safety procedures without an understanding of how they would affect the rig and its workers. Halliburton failed to share—and BP failed to correctly interpret—information on the cement seals being produced, and a government commission cited all three companies for failing to share information that would have let them accurately assess risks.

The White House commission that investigated the Deepwater Horizon spill labeled BP's poor communication a chronic condition. 

These communication failures are perfect examples of the importance of clear, concise workplace communication. When it comes to large, technical projects and multi-company partnerships, knowing how to communicate effectively, verify that your message has been received and understood, and interpret the information you receive from your partners is a vast and complex task.

Companies of all sizes can use this disaster and its causes as a preventive lesson and create a corporate culture where effective communication skills are taught, practiced, and valued.

To learn more about preventing communication failures in your workplace, contact us at Hurley Write, Inc.