In the wake of this year’s fatal oil platform explosion and resulting Gulf of Mexico spill—not to mention major refinery accident and pipeline leaks in recent years—under a new CEO, U.K.-based BP PLC is revamping its corporate safety culture. The firm announced late last month a new safety-and-risk division, the function of which will be “embedded” in corporate operating units with “sweeping powers” to oversee, audit and intervene in BP technical activities.

“The changes are in areas where I believe we most clearly need to act, with safety and risk management our most urgent priority,” said CEO Bob Dudley, who took over on Oct. 1. The Queens, N.Y.-born executive, the first American to head the firm, replaces Tony Hayward. Leading the new division and reporting directly to Dudley is Mark Bly, former corporate chief of safety and operations. He conducted the internal probe into last April’s Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. Also, BP agreed in August to a record $50-million federal fine for failing to address safety problems stemming from a fatal blast in 2005 at a Texas refinery.

In the past, BP safety engineers were embedded in business units but reported to unit leaders. They now will report to Bly from their respective locations. “These are the people who design in safety from the drawing board,” says a spokesman. He says BP also is looking at how contractors maintain compliance with its common safety standards.

BP also said on Oct. 5 it signed four-year global contracts with two engineer-project managers—U.K.-based AMEC and Australia-based WorleyParsons—to support onshore facility development. An AMEC spokeswoman says BP has a “substantial” development program for the next 10 years focused in Azerbaijan, Egypt, the North Sea, Oman and Iraq.