downplaying risk

Energy companies have aggressively lobbied to avoid formally analyzing worst-case scenarios since the Carter administration first required them in instances where there was uncertainty about the risk of disaster.

Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer failed. Two switches — one manual and an automatic backup — failed to start it.

When such catastrophic mechanical failures happen, they’re almost always traced to flaws in the broader system: the workers on the platform, the corporate hierarchies they work for, and the government bureaucracies that oversee what they do.

For instance, a study of 600 major equipment failures in offshore drilling structures  found that 80 percent were due to “human and organizational factors,” and 50 percent of those due to flaws in the engineering design of equipment or processes.