What You Do Not Have Cannot Leak 634704fc44038

Safety: What You Don’t Have Can’t Leak

Oct. 12, 2022
An icon of process safety offered much such wisdom

Our October issue in recent years has featured a cover story about process safety. This year we continue that tradition with “Take The Right Steps With Hazard Assessment,”  by Trish Kerin, director of the IChemE Safety Centre. It discusses how a hazard and operability study (HAZOP) that focuses on changes since the last HAZOP often can save time in assessments and lead to better results — and how to judge when to use this so-called Delta HAZOP approach.

We opted for the October issue for a process-safety-related cover story because that’s when the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center (MKOPSC) International Symposium takes place.

In addition, the month marks an important anniversary. On October 31st, 2013, Trevor Kletz, who many — including me — would call the father of inherent safety, died at age 90. I was fortunate to have met Kletz quite a number of times and to have inveigled him to write for CP (“Bhopal Leaves a Lasting Legacy”). For those of you not familiar with Kletz, his sage advice included not only the sentence I borrowed for this column’s headline but also such wise pronouncements as “organizations have no memory.” Everyone in our industry can benefit from reading his books (e.g., “What Went Wrong: Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters and How They Could Have Been Avoided,” “Still Going Wrong…,” and “Lessons From Disaster: How Organizations Have No Memory and Accidents Recur.”) There’s even a recent (2021) book from IChemE called “Trevor Kletz Compendium: His Process Safety Wisdom Updated For A New Generation.”

Kletz joined now-defunct Imperial Chemical Industries (see: “ICI Fades into History") in the U.K. in 1944, first working in research, then production, and finally for his last 14 years there as technical safety advisor to its petrochemicals division. ICI had pioneered the development and use of HAZOP in the 1960s, and, to quote Kletz, “Later, when I took the full-time safety job I became an enthusiastic advocate of HAZOP.”

After his retirement from ICI in 1982, he joined academia, teaching at Loughborough University in the U.K. and regularly visiting the MKOPSC. He remained a tireless champion of process safety, particularly inherent safety. (For fuller details on his life, see the article in The Chemical Engineer: “Trevor Kletz — A lifetime spent saving lives.")

This month’s International Symposium itself also brings to my mind two key proponents of process safety who played a crucial role in the development and success of the MKOPSC: Mike O’Connor, who died in July at age 68, founded the center to honor his wife, a chemical engineer who was killed in a 1989 explosion at the Phillips Petroleum complex in Pasadena, Texas (“Chemical Safety Leader, Loving Husband Passes”); and Sam Mannan, who died in 2018 at age 64, directed the MKOPSC for many years and used his boundless enthusiasm to advance process safety in academia and industry (“Pioneer in Process Safety Dies").

Fortunately, a number of people like Trish Kerin are building on the legacy of these powerful proponents of process safety.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at [email protected]
About the Author

Mark Rosenzweig | Former Editor-in-Chief

Mark Rosenzweig is Chemical Processing's former editor-in-chief. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' magazine Chemical Engineering Progress. Before that, he held a variety of roles, including European editor and managing editor, at Chemical Engineering. He has received a prestigious Neal award from American Business Media. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from The Cooper Union. His collection of typewriters now exceeds 100, and he has driven a 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk for more than 40 years.