Thanks for the Memory

In 2008, Trevor Kletz was interviewed by the CSB and offered (amongst many) the following provocative and memorable observation:

The major problem with the chemical industry and indeed, with other industries, is that the way accidents are investigated; reports are written, circulated, read, filed away and then forgotten. And then ten years later, even in the same company, the accident happens again. There is a saying that organizations have no memory; only people have memory and once they leave the plant, the accident that occurred there is forgotten about.

Neatly summarised (and immortalised) as “Organisations have no memory – only people do“, the indisputed (god)father of Process Safety has, over half a century, provided us with a wealth of short quotes and lengthy considerations to remind us that ‘Safety never Sleeps’, that we must always be on our guard and avoid complacency while controlling & containing the hazards which generate revenue or reward.

It is inevitable that we become dulled by the messages and insensitive (both technically & emotionally) to past events so it’s vital that his simple truths stay with us so we can maintain our respect and vigilance.

We’ve created a growing collection of quotes from Trevor and other respected members of the Process Safety community as well as some general anecdotes & comments from less technical sources which are nevertheless intended to evoke some mindfulness that we can apply ourselves and share with others.

Entitled Process Safety Intelligence, it is not aimed at intellectuals but more broadly to all stakeholders with the basic definition of intelligence as the:

  1. Ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills
  2. Collection of information of value

Trevor himself (as his books will testify) was not averse to employing humour to reinforce and retain the key messages:

IChemE Computer Control and Human Error

And we can see similar styles aimed at management:

Dilbert | Scott Adams

As well as directly towards frontline personnel:

The Simpsons | 20th Century Fox

Whatever the message, Joseph Pulitzer reminds us to:

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by the light

Serious subjects like Process Safety can be “taught” or shared in a way that is relevant and respectful – in fact renowned comedian and self-proclaimed actor, writer and tall-person John Cleese developed a training company (Video Arts) with the simple aim to “help your learning last longer”.

If we don’t learn, we won’t remember and we can’t act !