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.

Out of the Blocks: Credit for Human Response

“Fear is often our immediate response to uncertainty.”  — Gabrielle Bernstein In 2001, when the CCPS book, Layer of Protection Analysis: Simplified Process Risk Assessment, “the purple book”, stated that human response is “a relatively weak protection layer” and “less reliable than engineering controls”, many people were willing to accept that piece of conventional wisdom. [...]

Dia de los Muertos: Remembering the Dead

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  — George Santayana Our offices on Cherokee Street exist in the midst of a vibrant Hispanic community. So here in our neighborhood, Dia de los Muertos is in getting in full swing and will be observed through November 2. Dia de los Muertos, the [...]

Size Matters: Sampling for PSM Compliance Audits

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”  — Oscar G. Foellinger, 1927 As an engineering student, I once used empirical data to solve a design problem. The approach gave a reasonable answer, but my professor scolded me. “Mere curve fitting,” he sneered. “Good engineering requires working from first principles.” I didn’t agree then, [...]

By |2019-10-24T15:20:35+00:00October 24th, 2019|Process Safety|0 Comments

We’re Not Wizards

“But how they can be charged with negligence because they were not wizards, appellant’s brief does not make clear.”  — Osmond K. Fraenkel, successfully arguing before the New York Supreme Court, 1935 In a world where companies tout “Zero Incidents,” not as an aspirational definition of perfect safety, but as a measurable and achievable target, [...]

Fools Rush In: What We Really Expect

“For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”  — Alexander Pope I once led some process safety training that involved people from several different plants from around the world. After almost a week together, the people in the training became pretty comfortable with one another.  One of the last topics of the training was [...]

By |2019-10-10T14:13:31+00:00October 10th, 2019|Procedures, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Changing the Bet: The Safety Experience

“When you gamble with safety, you bet your life.”  Slogan on an industrial entrance mat The biggest obstacle to getting people to heed safety training is that unsafe behavior does not result in certain death. The problem with a safety slogan like, “When you gamble with safety, you bet your life,” is that most people, [...]

By |2019-10-03T14:19:21+00:00October 3rd, 2019|Training, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Someone Else’s Experience

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”  — C.S.Lewis We all learn from experience. When it comes to brutal lessons, though, it is better to learn from someone else’s experience.  In the course of our work, clients have shared some experiences with us that everyone can learn from.  [...]

By |2019-09-26T13:14:16+00:00September 26th, 2019|Process Safety, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

PSM Auditor: Coach or Umpire?

“Umpires don’t make the rules.  They apply them…They make sure everybody plays by the rules.  But it is a limited role.  Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”  — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts A call about doing a PSM audit usually begins with a question from the caller about whether [...]

More Than Three? Limits to Redundancy

“How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”  — Henry Fonda as Frank, in Once Upon a Time in the West There’s a cliché in the movies that involves a paranoid urban apartment-dweller with a dozen or more locks, deadbolts, chains, and [...]

Seven Questions: The Essence of HazOps

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”  — Francis Bacon There are about a gazillion “best” ways to do HazOps. What they all have in common, however, is that they use worksheets that are set up as tables that look at deviations in a node. For each deviation, a HazOp team considers “Causes”, “Consequences”, “Safeguards”, [...]

By |2019-08-29T14:38:07+00:00August 29th, 2019|PHA, Process Safety, Process Safety Management|0 Comments