Safety Moments

Safety Moments for the Process and Energy Industries

Safety Moments

Safety Moments are generally short stories or anecdotes that illustrate some aspect of personal or process safety. Generally they feature a near miss or even humorous event that had the potential to be much worse than it was. They can be used at the start of a meeting or at the beginning of the work day.

Another type of safety moment is one that discusses the elements…

Safety Moment #24: Where Then Shall (Process Safety) Wisdom Be Found?

Last week we quoted the Yale professor, Harold Bloom in the post Clear Your Mind of Cant. This week we cite him again,

Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?

Or, in our case,

Where shall process safety wisdom be found? 

Another modern sage, Warren Buffet, once said,

Safety Moment #23: Clear Your Mind of Cant

Harold Bloom

For the last few weeks our Safety Moments have been on themes of Incident Investigation and Analysis. Topics have included:

Happy Trails It’s Turtles All The Way Down Root Cause Analysis Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words

Let’s run one more post on this topic before we switch to another theme.

I would like to start by considering the difficult word…

Safety Moment #22: The Dangers of Safety


On February 4th an Amtrak train in South Carolina crashed into a parked freight train. The investigation has only just started so any conclusions that we draw from this event, in which two people died and many others were injured, must be tentative and subject to revision.

However, it is known that the Amtrak passenger train, which was traveling at around 60 mph, was wrongly…

Safety Moment #21: Happy Trails

The last three Safety Moments have looked at various aspects of Root Cause Analysis. In Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words we stressed the importance of defining and using words such as ‘incident’, ‘accident’ and ‘root cause analysis’ precisely. This was followed by Root Cause Analysis which showed that there is no single root cause. Instead people will develop a root cause trail…

Safety Moment #20: It’s Turtles All The Way Down


Credit Wikipedia


Our last two safety moments have discussed some aspects of root cause analysis. The first, Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words, showed how words mean different things to different people. Hence we will never agree upon a true “root cause”. The second, Root Cause Analysis, developed this theme and suggested that Incident Investigation teams should be…

Safety Moment #19: Root Cause Analysis

Oscar Wilde


Last week’s Safety Moment — Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words prompted a discussion to do with the vexed topic of root cause analysis. While we all agree that it is vital to determine the underlying reasons for the occurrence of incidents the catch is that there is no agreed upon definition for the term “root cause”.

An 800 person forum comprised of…

Safety Moment #18: Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words


​The title of this Safety Moment is derived from a scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which the hero disparages the meaning of what is written in the book in his hand.

Yet words do matter. And, in the context of a process safety program, some method is needed of deciding which of the many “events” that take place require a formal incident investigation. A catastrophic incident that…

Safety Moment #17: Safe Limits

In this Safety Moment we discuss the topic of “safe limits” as used in process hazards analyses.

During hazard analyses one sometimes hears statements on the following lines.

Could high temperature cause an incident? What is high temperature? It is that temperature that could cause an incident.

In order to break circular reasoning of this type it is necessary to clearly and…

Safety Moment #16: Drainage Systems

The 2nd edition of the book Plant Design and Operations is at the printers. In it we try to provide practical and relevant information that can be used in both the design and operation of process facilities. One section of the book discusses drainage systems. These systems, like so many other utilities, have the potential to be very hazardous because they connect different parts of an…