Bhopal Leaves a Lasting Legacy

The disaster taught some hard lessons that the chemical industry still sometimes forgets.

By Trevor A. Kletz, Loughborough University

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6. Cover important past accidents in training undergraduates and company employees.
7. Keep a folder of old accident reports in every control room. Make it compulsory reading for recruits; others should look through it from time to time.
8. Read more books, which tell us what’s old, as well as magazines, which tell us what’s new.
9. When downsizing, make sure remaining employees at all levels have adequate knowledge and experience.
10. Devise better retrieval systems so that we can find details of past accidents more easily. Staff members should review all published or privately circulated reports; any relevant information they contain should be placed in a searchable database.

Trevor A. Kletz is visiting professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University, Loughborough, U.K., and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M, College Station, Texas. The fifth edition of his book “What Went Wrong: Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters and How They Could Have Been Avoided” has just been published (see E-mail him at

1. “Report on the Incident at the Texaco Company’s Newark Storage Facility, 7th January 1983,” Loss Prev. Bulletin, No. 57, p. 11 (June 1984). Reprinted in Loss Prev. Bulletin, No. 188, p. 10 (Apr. 2006).
2. Henry, M. F., “NFPA’s Consensus Standards at Work,” Chem. Eng. Prog., Vol. 8, No. 8, p. 20 (Aug. 1985).
3. Kletz, T. A., “Can Cold Petrol Explode in the Open Air?,” The Chemical Engineer, p. 63 (June 1986). Reprinted in Loss Prev. Bulletin, No. 188, p. 9 (Apr. 2006).
4. Lechaudet, J. F., “Assessment of an Accidental Vapour Cloud Explosion,” Loss Prev. and Safety Prom. in Proc. Ind., Vol. 314, p. 377 (1995).
5. Russo, G., Maremonti, M., Salzano, E., Tufano, V. and S. Ditali, “Vapour Cloud Explosion in a Fuel Storage Area; a Case Study,” Proc. Safety and Env. Protect., Vol. 77, No. B6, p. 310 (1999).
6. Dawson, D. M. and J. B. Brooks, “The Esso Longford Gas Plant Explosion,” report of Royal Commission, State of Victoria, Australia (1999).

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