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

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

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 [...]

My Process Isn’t Covered by the PSM Standard

“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them, either. They keep you.”  —Frank Crane You’ve done it! You found a way to operate your process without ever going over the 10,000 lb threshold quantity for flammable liquids or gases. You’ve found substitutes for the toxic [...]

By | 2018-07-12T13:47:39+00:00 July 12th, 2018|Process Safety, Process Safety Management|0 Comments

Human Factors: The Power of Words

“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.”  —Hermann Hesse I was just treated to a full-body pat-down by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). For frequent flyers, tales of woe regarding the TSA are like, um, opinions. Everybody has [...]

Abandon-in-Place or Decommission?

“Let go of the attachment, keep the lesson.”  L.J. Vanier On February 16, 2007, a propane fire broke out at the Valero McKee Refinery in Sunray, Texas.  Three workers were injured and the refinery was forced to shut down for nearly two months.  The CSB investigated and determined that water settling out of a propane [...]

How Rare is Rare?

“The unlikely combination of potatoes and pasta does appear in some Italian recipes.”  Yotam Ottolenghi People sometimes have a hard time appreciating the difference between risk and consequences. To help, we ask them to imagine the worst thing possible that could actually happen at their plant, but not to say what it is. Then we [...]

Top 12 Issues for Facility Siting Studies: What Does OSHA Expect?

“I just let emotion dictate what the arrangement is.”  Jeff Buckley, singer-songwriter Emotion is a great way to approach the arrangement of music. As an approach to the arrangement of hazards in a facility that processes highly hazardous chemicals, however, it leaves a lot to be desired. So, OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard demands that [...]