Why Different PHA Teams Get Different Results

“Differences challenge assumptions.”  Anne Wilson Schaef There is a common misunderstanding about the nature of Process Hazard Analyses (PHAs):  that they are objective studies. By objective, we mean that different teams, working at different times and at different places, but looking at the same process, will get the same results. There is a perception that [...]

By | 2019-02-07T16:08:56+00:00 February 7th, 2019|PHA, Process Safety Management|0 Comments

Your Next Blockbuster Adventure: The PHA

“Archeology is the search for fact, not truth. If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.” — Indiana Jones, from The Last Crusade A process hazard analysis (PHA) is not a trivial exercise.  The search for process hazards takes time and effort, and it pulls a team of [...]

By | 2019-01-31T15:53:17+00:00 January 31st, 2019|PHA, Process Safety, Process Safety Management|0 Comments

Risk Tolerance Criteria: How Low Do You Go?

“Some risks are plainly acceptable and others are plainly unacceptable.”  Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens When Justice Stevens wrote that opinion for the majority in the 1980 OSHA Benzene case, he went on to add that odds of fatality of one in a billion could not be considered significant but that for odds of [...]

By | 2019-01-24T14:34:43+00:00 January 24th, 2019|Process Safety Management, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

By the Book: Procedure Violations in Incident Investigations

“There is almost no human action or decision that cannot be made to look flawed and less sensible in the misleading light of hindsight.  It is essential that the critic should keep himself constantly aware of that fact.”  — Lord Anthony Hidden One of the insidious effects of hindsight bias is that it puts much [...]

Near Misses: Learning from Experience

“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”  — Vernon Law When hit with the first winter storm of the season, everyone has to learn how to drive all over again.  In our community, freezing rain coats everything, including the roads, which makes driving especially treacherous.  A few years [...]

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|1 Comment

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 [...]