tce today - IChemE’s Hazards 25 conference - Trevor Kletz Hazards Lecutre

Lecturer Sam Mannan urged action on process safety.


ACADEMIA and industry have taken great strides to take to improve process safety, Sam Mannan has told experts gathered at IChemE’s Hazards 25 conference.

Mannan, director of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M University, urged greater effort – including more research, new hiring techniques and trialling new analysis techniques – during his delivery of the inaugural Trevor Kletz Hazards Lecture.

Kletz, who died in 2013, was a pioneer of process safety developing the HAZAN and HAZID methods of analysing risk in the 1970s. The evolution of these methods led to the development of the HAZOP methodology, which is used extensively throughout industry today.

“His contributions helped save many lives, made the industry safer. The legacy he left behind is really very extensive,” Mannan told tce on the fringes of the conference. “Through very simple communication techniques presented in his unique manner, for example in a 1984 conference in the US he presented a paper called “What You Don’t Have Can’t Leak”. And that led to this proliferation of this huge new field called inherently safer design. And today if a unit of measurement could be developed for inherently safer design I have no doubt we would call it a Kletz.”

Despite these developments, Mannan says he is disappointed that 31 years on from Bhopal it’s difficult to tell with any certainty whether industry is safer or not. He argues that there is much more that both academia and industry can do to boost process safety if the community is to achieve its vision of zero accidents.

“A single person, a single manager no matter how powerful they are cannot do it. Leaders can have a major impact – and they do – but ultimately we all have to play a role.”

A recent survey found that just ten of around 150 chemical engineering courses in the US have process safety as part of the core curriculum. Furthermore, professors aren’t doing enough to address the research challenges associated with process safety, said Mannan.

He urged professors to “get out of their comfort zones” and look to push the development of new hazard analysis techniques, noting it is the responsibility of academic research to serve society, and safety is a key societal need.

“There are some very interesting scientific problems [related to process safety] requiring probing minds, requiring intellectual approaches and those need to be addressed by professors.”

Industry has a role to play in forcing the hands of academia to better prepare engineering graduates to the world of process safety, he says. Industry should send a message to universities that safety should be a core competency of graduating engineers.

“You the industry, you have an obligation to create some pressure on the universities. Tell them you won’t hire their engineers if they don’t have process safety education.”

Among his many recommendations for industry, Mannan said new hazard analysis techniques developed by researchers – including blended hazard identification, and Bayesian networks – that are gathering dust on the shelves must be trialled.

“[Industry] can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different answers.”

Following his lecture, Mannan was presented with an IChemE Honorary Fellowship by IChemE CEO David Brown. 

Click on the link to hear Mannan’s full audio interview with tce in the The Chemical Engineer podcast.

This report by tce today.