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.

Master the Box

“Constraints inspire creativity.”  — Christopher Isaac “Biz”Stone, co-founder of Twitter I once asked a young engineer if he knew where the phrase, “Think Outside the Box,” came from. “Taco Bell?” he replied tentatively. I asked a few of my other younger colleagues and to a person they had no idea where the phrase came from. As [...]

By | 2018-12-15T17:20:41+00:00 December 14th, 2018|Current Events, Training|0 Comments

Options: Reducing Risk

“To have constructive conversations about … options, one needs to take a calm look at the numbers.”  — David J.C. MacKay In addition to the usual hazards found in all jobs—transportation related fatalities, workplace violence, and slips, trips, and falls—the chemical process industries have three special hazards to worry about: fires, explosions, and toxic releases. [...]

Check Valves: Why We Do the Things We Do

“To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”  —St. Augustine “Check valves are worthless.” Every engineer I know has heard that. Many believe it. Quite a few have said it. Yet, check valves are still made and installed. How worthless could they be? Why Use Check Valves? Check valves are designed to allow flow [...]

By | 2018-11-19T15:17:29+00:00 November 19th, 2018|Process Safety, Process Safety Management|0 Comments

Not Likely

“None of this will be important if there’s a zombie apocalypse. But how likely is that?”  —Jason Vladescu I was once at a conference where I overheard a conversation at the next table during lunch. The two of them were talking about PSAs. I quickly realized that they weren’t talking about Public Service Announcements. They [...]

By | 2018-11-15T20:42:35+00:00 November 15th, 2018|Process Safety, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

Things We Worry About: Plane Crashes

“You are now statistically more likely to be elected president of the United States in your lifetime than you are to die in a plane crash. What an amazing achievement as a society! But what we end up focusing on are the catastrophic failures that are incredibly rare but happen every now and then.” – [...]

Four Key Points: Applying the Meer Decision to Flammable Storage

“Unlike Humpty Dumpty, the Secretary may not give a word whatever meaning she chooses.”  —Judge Richard DeBenedetto When the Meer Corporation took the bold and relatively unheard-of step of contesting an OSHA citation for violating the Process Safety Management standard (PSM), no one expected them to prevail. The PSM standard includes an exemption for atmospheric [...]

By | 2018-11-01T18:32:21+00:00 November 1st, 2018|Process Safety Management|0 Comments

Caps and Plugs: Why We Do The Things We Do

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”  —Warren Buffett Caps and plugs serve no process function. It is a common practice to install a cap or plug on the end of a line that is open to the atmosphere, but the justification is for safety, [...]

By | 2018-10-18T15:27:00+00:00 October 18th, 2018|PHA, Process Safety|0 Comments

Things We Worry About: In-plant Derailments

“To invent the train is to invent the rail accident of derailment.”  —Paul Virilio When most of us think of train derailments, we think of horrendous events, like the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013 that destroyed the town in Quebec and killed 47 people. Fortunately, the vast majority of train derailments associated with the chemical [...]

By | 2018-10-11T15:15:59+00:00 October 11th, 2018|Process Safety, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

A New Enforcement Program: Ammonia and Ammonium Nitrate

“This program is an enforcement tool to emphasize the obligations under existing OSHA standards,”  – Kimberly Stille, OSHA Region VII Administrator When the West Fertilizer ammonium nitrate warehouse north of Waco, Texas caught fire and then blew up on April 17, 2013, killing 15 and injuring 160, much was made of the lack of inspections [...]

Cracks in the Bridge: FIU Part 2

“…obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there, so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective…” —W. Denney Pate, Lead Engineer on FIU Bridge Project Obviously, Denney Pate got it wrong. In that voice mail message to the Florida [...]

By | 2018-09-20T18:08:31+00:00 September 20th, 2018|Current Events, Workplace Safety|0 Comments