Here's a good article with some links on BP's sh!tty safety record.
Except today's New York Times makes a pretty persuasive case that BP really did stand out in its disregard for safety, and that not all oil companies are equal. First up, Jad Mouwad wrote a profile of ExxonMobil, which revamped its management culture after the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in 1989, and now "stands out among its peers for its obsessive attention to safety." In fact, back in 2006, Exxon ran into problems in a deepwater well similar to what BP faced at Macondo—natural gas kicking up—and the company decided to abandon the well rather than keep drilling. (Exxon was savaged by financial analysts at the time, but the decision looks pretty shrewd in retrospect.)
The picture looks very different when you turn to the Times' excellent profile of BP. The company has a long record of safety violations—in 2005, an aging BP plant in Texas exploded, killing 15 people, and an after-action report blamed "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of BP." Then came a large leak that poured 267,000 gallons of oil into Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 2006, thanks to poorly maintained pipes. And just this year, federal inspectors have found 62 safety violations at BP's Ohio refinery. Yet BP never underwent the same cultural shift that ExxonMobil underwent. And, so, in retrospect, it's no surprise that BP cut so many corners: