This year promises to be an important one in terms of process safety leadership. The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm the nomination of Katherine A. Lemos as chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). Meanwhile, the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center (MKOPSC) at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, has appointed Stewart Behie as interim director to help fill the significant void created by the death of the center’s long-time director, Sam Mannan, a larger-than-life figure who provided leadership and inspiration. MKOPSC expects to name a permanent director shortly.
Lemos enjoyed bipartisan support at the hearing on her nomination held in September by the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. That committee unanimously agreed to forward her nomination to the full Senate. Easy confirmation is expected there, although given the Senate’s current preoccupation with other matters, when a vote might take place remains uncertain. So, too, obviously does the timing of her actually becoming chair of the CSB.
Most recently at Northrup Grumman, Lemos previously had served at the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. The White House had trumpeted her experience with safety systems, accident investigation, human factors as well as advanced technology. She isn’t familiar with chemical manufacturing but neither was her predecessor, Vanessa Sutherland.
As I had mentioned in an earlier editorial, “Process Safety Demands Perseverance,” the terms of the three remaining board members expire in 2020. So this year may see considerable change at the CSB.
Chemical Processing aims to touch base with Lemos once she’s at the helm of the CSB, and also will be following other developments there.
Meanwhile, Behie certainly should play a positive role at the MKOPSC until the permanent director comes onboard.
The MKOPSC notes: “Behie has over 40 years of technical experience in risk assessment and management, process hazards analysis, safety engineering and the process of safety culture maturation. He has worked closely with the MKOPSC as an industry consortium member and also on the industry steering committee, and he has served on the risk communication subcommittee representing the Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation as well.”
We look forward to working with Behie and then with the permanent director.
In the interim, CP already liaised with the MKOPSC to firm up the 2020 lineup of process safety series webinars that we run in conjunction with the center. The four webinars slated for this year are: April 4 — “Learn from Incidents” by Trish Kerin, director of the IChemE Safety Centre, Melbourne, Australia, on how to get more value from available incident information; June 18 — “Preventing Human Error in the Maintenance of Instrumented Safeguards” by Angela Summers, president, SIS-TECH Solutions, Houston, on how to address four factors that can contribute to human error; October 1 — “Lessons from Other Industries” by Trish Kerin on how sectors such as theme parks and finance can provide insights; and December 3 — “Leveraging OHS for Process Safety” by Trish Kerin on how to benefit from existing occupational health and safety systems, tools and people.
For more details on these free webinars or to register for any of them visit the Process Safety Series portal.
Rest assured, we will keep a sharp focus on what’s happening in process safety.