Grounding the Max 8: Ignoring Near Misses

“The failure of a layer of protection to prevent an incident is not the initiating cause of the incident.”  The United States just joined much of the world in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9. The tipping point was not the crash of Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 into the Java Sea [...]

By | 2019-03-14T16:47:23+00:00 March 14th, 2019|Current Events, Process Safety|0 Comments

Worst Case Scenario: What Does It Mean?

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”  — Randy Pausch The term “worst case” lacks rigor.  Let’s stop using it. “Worst case” doesn’t really mean what we think it means and it confuses people. More often than not, the term is an obstacle to good analysis, not an aid. What [...]

By | 2019-03-07T16:12:24+00:00 March 7th, 2019|PHA, Process Safety, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

Sharing Knowledge: How to Do It and Why It’s Important

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”  — Alan Moore It is human nature to seek knowledge - we have evolved as curious creatures. Being able to build an accurate picture of the world is one method we employ for survival.  When you’re looking for knowledge, what [...]

Hear No Evil, See No Evil: False Alarms and Spurious Trips

“With a chemical alarm, you’re going to build one that is oversensitive because you would rather the alarm go off and give you a false alarm than to err on the other side.”  —General Norman Schwarzkopf False alarms and spurious trips are inconvenient and annoying. They shut down operations that are running well, imposing the [...]

By | 2019-02-21T14:34:49+00:00 February 21st, 2019|Process Safety|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

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 [...]

Lock the Gates Behind You

“If you want zero risk in the plant, send everyone home and lock the gate.”  — Industrial safety proverb I don’t remember when I first heard it, but I know I’ve said it. Risk is inherent to the chemical enterprise. We can reduce it, but we cannot eliminate it entirely. Zero risk is not an [...]

By | 2018-12-20T13:45:58+00:00 December 20th, 2018|Current Events, Process Safety, Workplace Safety|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|1 Comment