NU Online News Service, June 29, 10:00 a.m. EDT

The new Safety & Operational Risk (S&OR) program of BP (formerly British Petroleum) is now fully operational.

The S&OR program, announced in Sept. 2010, is headed by Mark Bly, an executive vice president who reports directly to Bob Dudley, BP’s CEO.

“S&OR is at the heart of BP’s efforts to rebuild confidence and regain the public’s trust,” Bly wrote in a note to staff, which was provided to NU. “I am enthused by what we have accomplished so far, and I remain confident that our efforts will position us as a safer and stronger BP.”

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 of last year left 13 dead and 17 injured and resulted in a massive oil spill. The event led to intense scrutiny of the risk-management practices of BP and ultimately caused the removal of Tony Hayward, the company’s group chief executive.

Dudley has said that BP’s response to the incident needs to go “beyond deepwater drilling. There are lessons for us relating to the way we operate, the way we organize our company and the way we manage risk.”

According to BP, its new S&OR organization:

â–ª Strengthens and clarifies requirements for safe, compliant and reliable operations.

â–ª Will have more than 500 specialist personnel attached to BP businesses to guide, advise and, if necessary, intervene.

â–ª Provides deep technical expertise to the company’s operating businesses.

â–ª Intervenes where needed to stop operations and bring about corrective actions.

Dudley noted in a statement that BP is “already seeing results.” For example, in one instance, “we shut down a production platform to repair the fire water pumps. In another, a producing field was shut down to enable pipeline integrity work to be carried out.”

BP also has decided it “will not accept oil rigs that do not conform to our standards, and there are a number of cases where we have either turned away rigs or are negotiating for modifications to bring them fully up to our standards,” Dudley said in a statement.

In its 2010 annual report, BP notes that the risks inherent in its operations include a number of hazards that, “although many may have a low probability of occurrence, they can have extremely serious consequences if they do occur, such as the Gulf of Mexico incident.”

BP notes in its annual report that the core responsibilities of S&OR are to:

• Provide checks and balances independent of the business line.

• Strengthen mandatory safety-related standards and processes, including operational risk management.

• Provide an independent view on operational risk.

• Assess and enhance the competency and capability of its workforce in matters related to safety.

The report adds that while the business line “continues to be accountable for operational delivery, S&OR holds the authority to intervene in safety and operational risk aspects of BP’s technical and operational activities.”