Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Similarities between the Shuttle Challenger and BP Oil Spill Disasters

Most of the major accidents we're all familiar with could have been easily prevented. The more I learn about the BP oil spill, the more I see similarities with the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster: 1) speed and schedule were put before safety; 2) vital information provided by engineers in the field was ignored by management; 3) those same engineers allowed themselves to be bullied into continuing their work, rather than escalating the matter or seizing the power necessary to take control and avert disaster; 4) an overconfidence due to prior records of good safety led to complacency; 5) the failure of a relatively cheap and simple component (in both cases, a type of rubber seal) ultimately triggered the catastrophic failure.

If you've never studied the results of the Challenger investigation, I can recommend it as an excellent case study in poor communication and bad management.

60 Minutes ran a great investigative segment on the causes of the BP oil spill. The video can be seen here.

The results of the Challenger investigation can be seen here.