Chemical engineers feature in second season of engineering safety programme

Article by Amanda Doyle

SIX chemical engineers have featured as experts in the second series of Disasters Engineered.

The series features chemical, structural, and mechanical engineering incidents across a variety of sectors including oil and gas, nuclear, mining, construction, and space travel. Each episode will look at two incidents, with safety experts discussing what happened and what can be learned from each accident.

The show features three former IChemE Presidents: Stephen Richardson, Dame Judith Hackitt, and Geoffrey Maitland. Also featured are Ken Patterson, from IChemE’s Loss Prevention Bulletin (LPB) editorial panel, Zsuzsanna Gyenes, Deputy to the Director of the IChemE Safety Centre (ISC), and Fiona Macleod, Chair of the LPB editorial panel. The first series also featured Dame Judith, Macleod, and Maitland.

Patterson and Macleod feature in the episode examining the Flint water crisis in the US, where 100,000 people were exposed to contaminated water following the decision to reinstate a water treatment plant that hadn’t been used for 50 years.

Gyenes spoke about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, and the importance of assessing risks of natural disasters.

Dame Judith discussed the Grenfell Tower fire and how systems thinking is crucial when designing and managing high-rise buildings. Dame Judith led the independent review of building regulations following the Grenfell fire.

Maitland shared engineering knowledge of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill off the coast of Alaska. Maitland chaired the independent review of the UK Offshore Oil and Gas Regulatory Regime in 2011 following the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Macleod and Richardson spoke about the Piper Alpha oil and gas platform explosion in the North Sea in 1988. Richardson gave technical evidence during the Piper Alpha inquiry.

Richardson said: “Everyone is responsible for keeping operations as safe as possible. It is vital that we learn from the tragic incidents in this documentary and, as professional engineers, use our skills, knowledge and continue to share these learnings with the future generations, so everyone is equipped to best manage the risks that hazards pose and mitigate their effects should an issue occur.

“Like Piper Alpha, key lessons from many of the incidents in the documentary include considering whole systems (not isolated parts of them), having robust processes in place to manage them, and creating a culture where everyone – no matter what position within an organisation – feels empowered to communicate and will be heard.”

All ten episodes are available via the National Geographic channel.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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