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

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+00:00 November 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.” – [...]

Things We Worry About: In-plant Derailments

“To invent the train is to invent the rail accident of derailment.”  —Paul Virilio When most of us think of train derailments, we think of horrendous events, like the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013 that destroyed the town in Quebec and killed 47 people. Fortunately, the vast majority of train derailments associated with the chemical [...]

By | 2018-10-11T15:15:59+00:00 October 11th, 2018|Process Safety, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

Things We Worry About: In-plant Truck Releases

“It’s no good crying over spilt milk, because all the forces of the universe are bent on spilling it.”  —William Somerset Maugham Imagine a tank truck shows up at your plant. It’s there to make a delivery or to pick up a load. Perhaps it had to wait overnight in your lot before your shipping [...]

By | 2018-09-13T13:56:16+00:00 September 13th, 2018|Chemicals, Process Safety, Risk Assessment|0 Comments

Breaking Glass: Facility Siting

“I love the sound of breaking glass.”  Nick Lowe When I was a kid, the song, “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” was on the radio. I didn’t get it. I had memories of the sound of breaking glass, none of them good: The sound of an errant baseball going through the neighbor’s picture [...]

By | 2018-08-02T13:39:56+00:00 August 2nd, 2018|Process Safety, Risk Assessment, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

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 [...]

Just to be Safe: Can You be Too Conservative?

“I’m a conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.”  George H.W.Bush We’ve all heard it.  “You need to be conservative, just to be on the safe side.”  It’s an article of faith in the safety community.  Like all articles of faith and other religious beliefs, any deviation is heresy with the potential for excommunication.  [...]