Inconceivable: Unrecognized Hazards

“You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  - Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, in The Princess Bride I find the phrase “While we never anticipate a loss of cabin pressure…” incredibly annoying.  To anticipate means to think of something that will or might happen in the [...]

By |2019-12-05T14:08:07+00:00December 5th, 2019|Process Safety, Risk Assessment, Safety Lifecycle|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, [...]

Lab Safety: A Three Phase System

“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”  George S. Patton, Jr. I intended to begin with “A good plan, well executed, is better than a perfect plan, poorly executed,” but when I checked, that’s not what General Patton said.  What he said was “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than [...]

Double Jeopardy: Impossible?

“Everything is impossible until it is done.”  — Robert H. Goddard In 1921, annoyed with ignorant criticism, Robert Goddard published a piece in Scientific American in defense of the potential for travel to the moon. It’s always easier to say something is impossible than to address the potential of it happening. Double Jeopardy When someone [...]

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+00:00March 7th, 2019|PHA, Process Safety, Risk Assessment|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+00:00January 24th, 2019|Process Safety Management, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

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. [...]

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+00:00November 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.” – [...]