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Lessons In Industrial Safety From Around The World25 Oct. 2011
Robert I. Hedges
- Published on Amazon.com
People who know me well know I am a voracious reader; they also know that I have a passion for the safety field. When people ask me who my favorite author is I give them an answer none are expecting: Trevor Kletz. Dr. Kletz is perhaps the world's preeminent expert on industrial safety, particularly in the chemical processing industry. "Learning From Accidents in Industry" is another of his golden books, emphasizing both the big picture (e.g. "what you don't have, can't leak,") and attention to detail in design and operation (e.g. "slip-plate on reflux drum.") As a former production manager at a chemical production plant, I can personally attest that the commonsense approach Dr. Kletz espouses is both vital and less common than it should be.
The beauty of this book (and others by Kletz) is his brilliant use of case studies to illustrate his chief points, frequently including photographs of accidents resulting from bad practice. I particularly like the focus on inherently safer design (and especially the emphasis on reduction in inventory of hazardous intermediary reagents) as opposed to added on safety features such as relief valves and catchpots. Of course both are sometimes required even in elegant designs, but Kletz emphasizes good plant layout and process design via the safest pathways. Another thing I love about this book is the incorporation of both well-known accidents (e.g. Flixborough, Seveso, Bhopal,) as well as accidents generally unknown outside of the organization in which it occurred (e.g. an explosion in a control room in a plant that manufactured organic solvent.) Kletz rightly focuses on sharing information within industry so others can learn from smaller incidents before a major accident occurs. Aviation is an excellent example of an industry in which this sharing of safety data occurs, but Kletz points to legal ramifications which overshadow this information exchange in most industries.
In addition to his discussion of the varying legal frameworks in different countries (the US and UK are compared and contrasted in particular) Kletz discusses varying regulatory approaches used around the world. I am extremely familiar with the stifling bureaucracy of US safety and regulatory codes, and Kletz summarizes the biggest problem with the US approach in the most succinct manner possible: "In some countries, including the US, it seems to be believed that industrial accidents can be prevented by the government writing a book of regulations that looks like a telephone directory, though it is rather less interesting to read." Bravo!
If you are interested in industrial safety, I cannot recommend a better authority or more compelling author than Trevor Kletz., and I recommend this book to safety professionals in any field.