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

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

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: 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

Before You Hear It on the News

“I just wanted to call you and let you know before you heard it on the news.”  —Mike Schmidt When we were newlyweds, my husband once called me at work to let me know that he was OK. He wanted to tell me about something that might show up on the local newscast later in [...]

By | 2018-08-30T15:50:43+00:00 August 30th, 2018|Current Events, Workplace Safety|0 Comments

Abandon-in-Place or Decommission?

“Let go of the attachment, keep the lesson.”  L.J. Vanier On February 16, 2007, a propane fire broke out at the Valero McKee Refinery in Sunray, Texas.  Three workers were injured and the refinery was forced to shut down for nearly two months.  The CSB investigated and determined that water settling out of a propane [...]

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.  [...]

Tolerable Risk, Analysis from a Novice

“Safety is a common denominator across all aspects of life, hence knowledge should always be shared.  It is not a matter for industry it is a matter for humanity.”  Doug Bourne, technical director at PM Lucas Six months ago, if you would have asked me to define the phrase “tolerable risk”, I would have stared [...]

By | 2017-07-24T16:41:57+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Process Safety Management, Risk Assessment|0 Comments