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Process Safety — Manage The Only Constant: Change

May 17, 2024
Understanding the two kinds of change, deliberate and creeping, will aid you in keeping your facility a safe place to work.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with the notion that the only constant in life is change. This wisdom reflects the reality that the world is in perpetual flux, and change is inevitable. Change can manifest itself in two ways. First, there is deliberate change, which occurs when we consciously intervene and initiate transformations. Second, there is gradual change, often referred to as creeping change, where systems or equipment slowly deteriorate over time. Recognizing and managing both deliberate and creeping change are critical for good process safety management.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the catastrophic explosion and fire that tore through the Nypro plant in Flixborough, U.K., resulting in the tragic loss of 28 lives and leaving 89 others injured. In this devastating incident, both deliberate and creeping change played significant roles.

On June 1st, 1974, the massive blast not only destroyed the facility but also damaged homes in the neighboring village. Over the past five decades, the Flixborough disaster has been extensively documented and analyzed. Despite the passage of time, this tragedy continues to offer lessons that remain highly relevant even today.

About the Author

Trish Kerin, Stay Safe columnist | Director, IChemE Safety Centre

Trish Kerin is an award-winning international expert and keynote speaker in process safety and the inaugural director of the IChemE Safety Centre. Trish leverages her years of engineering and varied leadership experience to help organizations improve their process safety outcomes. 

She has represented industry to many government bodies and has sat on the board of the Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority. She is a Chartered Engineer, registered Professional Process Safety Engineer, Fellow of IChemE and Engineers Australia. Trish also holds a diploma in OHS, a master of leadership and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her recent book "The Platypus Philosophy" helps operators identify weak signals. 

Her expertise has been recognized with the John A Brodie Medal (2015), the Trevor Kletz Merit Award (2018), Women in Safety Network’s Inaugural Leader of the Year (2022) and has been named a Superstar of STEM for 2023-2024 by Science and Technology Australia.

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