What We Know: Another Explosion in Houston

“All I know is what I read in the papers.”  — Will Rogers When there is a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals, I want to know about it. I want to know what happened, why it happened, and what I can learn to keep it from happening again. I go to news accounts. All [...]

By |2020-02-03T20:35:41+00:00January 30th, 2020|Chemicals, Current Events, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: HazOp Nodes

“Come on, baby, let’s start anew, ‘cause breaking up is hard to do.”  — Neil Sedaka Before a HazOp team ever assembles, the facilitator has some important tasks to complete: get agreement with management on the scope of the review, identify the boundaries of the study, and break the process up into nodes.  And breaking [...]

By |2020-01-09T16:34:36+00:00January 9th, 2020|PHA, Procedures, Process Safety Management|1 Comment

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|1 Comment

A Fatal Cleaning Incident: Familiarity Breeds …

“While devastated at this unimaginable loss, we are so very proud that Ryan died while trying to protect his fellow employees and restaurant patrons.”  — family of Ryan Baldera On November 7, 2019, a restaurant employee in Burlington, Massachusetts was overcome by fumes from a “strong chemical cleaning agent” and died. Thirteen others were taken [...]

By |2019-11-14T17:48:11+00:00November 14th, 2019|Chemicals, Current Events, Workplace Safety|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 [...]

Notre-Dame Burning: Don’t Wait for the Fire

“If your house were burning down and you could take away one thing, what would it be?”…”I’d take the fire.” — Jean Cocteau, interviewed by André Fraigneau The images of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burning broke my heart. I am grateful that people and organizations around the world have vowed to contribute to the [...]

By |2019-04-18T13:28:58+00:00April 18th, 2019|Current Events, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Lab Safety: Being Interested Isn’t Enough

“Once trained, the hazard often becomes a routine part of their experimentation and researchers perceive themselves to be experts in handling the hazard. Perceived familiarity can shift the awareness level from cautiousness to complacency.”  — University of California Center for Laboratory Safety It didn’t get much press.  Science reported on it, as did Chemical & [...]

By |2019-01-03T18:58:49+00:00January 3rd, 2019|Chemicals, Procedures, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

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+00:00December 20th, 2018|Current Events, Process Safety, Workplace Safety|0 Comments