About Mike Schmidt

With a career in the CPI that began in 1977 with Union Carbide, Mike was profoundly impacted by the 1984 tragedy in Bhopal and has been working on process safety ever since.

What Does an OSHA Fine Mean?

“There is no worse place … to be than on Page 1, above the fold in your daily newspaper.”  Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency When high profile disasters happen, incidents with a lot of media coverage, I’ve noticed that news organizations make a point of reporting how many OSHA citations [...]

Changing Safety Culture

“How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, but the lightbulb really has to want to change.”  Anonymous A former student, now working in industry, recently called me. He said he had a safety question. “How do you change safety culture? I can’t find that in my notes from your class.” [...]

By | 2018-03-29T13:36:06+00:00 March 29th, 2018|Process Safety, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Slow Down: The FIU Bridge Collapse

“Have you ever noticed when something bad happens, people automatically look for someone to blame?”  Amy Roberts I’m not a structural engineer, which means that I’m not qualified to comment on what went wrong when the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed on Thursday, March 15, 2018. I didn’t work on the design or [...]

By | 2018-03-20T15:42:52+00:00 March 19th, 2018|Current Events, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Spark Detection

“A mighty flame follows a little spark.”  Dante Alighieri Sparks can cause fires. Good news if you want fire. Bad news if fires, or worse, explosions, are something you want to avoid. So, it should come as no surprise that the National Fire Protection Association takes a dim view of sparks. The Dust Hazard Analysis [...]

Wait For It! Are Trip Delays Okay?

“But the important thing about learning to wait, I feel sure, is to know what you are waiting for.”  —Anna Neagle Many safety instrumented functions (SIFs) are deliberately designed to wait before tripping.  Like a sergeant commanding his troops to “Wait for it!” the SIF designer is anxious that the SIF not trip prematurely. Some [...]

Man Down: Knowing When Someone is Hurt

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”  Isaac Asimov We recently facilitated a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) where the question came up, “What if there was a release and an operator was suddenly overcome? How would we know?” The PHA team considered several possible safeguards: rounds, radio [...]

Seven Habits for More Effective PHAs

“Most people would rather have their wisdom teeth extracted without the benefit of anesthesia than sit through a PHA.”  PHAs are tough.  They take focus and energy and they take people away from their regular jobs, which don’t go away just because they are in a PHA. Yet, like good dental hygiene, no one thinks [...]

By | 2018-02-15T14:30:36+00:00 February 15th, 2018|PHA, Process Safety Management|0 Comments

The Ford Pinto

“The Ford Pinto—the barbecue that seats four.” –Johnny Carson This month, February 2018, will be the 40th anniversary of the California jury verdict in the Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co. case. The jury awarded Richard Grimshaw $2,516,000 in compensatory damages and $125,000,000 in punitive damages, although the trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $3,500,000. [...]

By | 2018-02-08T14:38:29+00:00 February 8th, 2018|Current Events, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

Settling for More: Will a Grain Explosion Lead to Greater Safety?

“Issuance of this Citation does not constitute a finding that a violation of the Act has occurred.”  —from OSHA Citation and Notification of Penalty On October 29, 2011, a grain elevator explosion in Atchison, Kansas killed six men—four employees and two grain inspectors. OSHA cited the Bartlett Grain Company’s facility and proposed a fine of [...]

By | 2018-01-19T13:56:54+00:00 January 11th, 2018|Combustible Dust, Current Events|0 Comments

So I Know You Understand: Training Verification

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  —Alan Greenspan I once heard a young operator complain, “All we do around here is safety training. Nobody understands half of it and the other half is just common [...]