Significant progress in process safety has been made by many companies and engineers around the globe. This progress is often overshadowed when a process safety accident hits the news. In December of 2007, a runaway reaction led to an explosion at the T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, FL. The blast killed four people and injured thirty two. One of the recommendations from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard and Investigation Board (CSB) was to improve the undergraduate chemical engineering curriculum in the US.
T2 Laboratories explosion and fire
In 2011, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) officially recognized the role of process safety in chemical engineering education when it updated the requirements for what is taught in Chemical Engineering programs. ABET accreditation provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates.
The change added a clause, indicating that the curriculum should not only include the engineering application of chemistry, physics, and/or biology to the design, analysis and control of processes, but also the hazards associated with those processes.
“The curriculum must include the engineering application of these basic sciences to the design, analysis, and control of chemical, physical, and/or biological processes, including the hazards associated with these processes.”
US Chemical Engineering Departments began developing curriculum changes to meet this new requirement through the development of a dedicated course and/or incorporating safety into other courses.
Some companies, such as DOW, are collaborating with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) by donating resources to make this a reality. According to June Wispelwey, executive director of the AIChE, “Corporate leaders and engineers say they need young engineers who are better trained in process safety when they enter the workforce.”
At exida we also believe that it is important to do our part to improve the training for new engineers entering the workforce in the process industries. Recently I had the pleasure of delivering a guest lecture on Functional Safety to Penn State University’s “Chemical Process Safety & Control” class.
- “Process Safety in the Classroom: The Current State of Chemical Engineering Programs at US Universities”
- “What should every graduating chemical engineer know about process safety and how can we make sure that they do?”, W. Harding, B. Harding, and P. Montagna, 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, June 2015.
- “Dow Makes Leadership Gift to Launch Major Process Safety Education Initiative”