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Previously on LinkedIn...

December 18, 2016

This year, I've attempted to inform those with only a basic understanding of Process & Functional Safety theory (the Capable Amateurs) and inspire those with the scars of practical experience (the Competent Professionals). Folks who actually know me, will testify that I'm actually a man of few words and I'd like to think I save them for special occasions.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.


As the year ends, we all reflect on the past 12 months ("So this is Xmas, And what have you done; Another year over, And a new one just begun"). I've had the pleasure of working with great people on (among other engagements) projects in Breweries, Distilleries, Refineries and Biogas-to-Energy and on the way I've been brewing, distilling and refining my thoughts so they generate some power rather than just remain as shitty sludge.

So what have I done ? - apart from herding cats and wrangling spreadsheets - I've been reading Ian Mortimer's book.

I'm not going to spoil it by telling you which century saw the most change, but will share with you that in the 20th century one of the primary agents of change was both a Hero and a Villain - Fritz Haber developed the industrial process to create ammonia which was exploited to produce artificial fertilizers that helped feed the world. Unfortunately he was also the "father of chemical warfare" who weaponized chlorine (and other poisonous gases) during World War I. It is all our actions (or SUM) that we should be judged by and not just a selection (or MAX) of our words.

Actions speak louder than words. Words cost nothing. Actions can cost everything.

In his conclusions, Ian Mortimer recalled a quote that "Stability leads to complacency" - are our Process Safety Performance Indicators sufficiently healthy that we can afford to ease off. The reality is that "Safety Never Sleeps" or "Safety Never Takes a Holiday" because the Hazards are always out there and they are persistent little buggers that you can't afford to turn your back on.

Thanks to all who found my Wit Tolerable and my Wisdom Broadly Acceptable and I offer you this toast from our national poet, Robert Burns:

To absent friends
To those we have met
To those we have yet to meet
To those who have left us for a while
And to those who have left us forever


You might think this was written for social media, and as the hoo-ha about LinkedIn ≠ Facebook continues to rage - I'm just as scunnered as you with guessing the next number, pouting women and pompous men - but surely sharing experience (preferably honest and relevant) must be a good thing in a technical community like ours i.e. to commune & communicate!

Having said all that, with all this big data and despite all that we try and do to make our facilities safe (as reasonably profitable) our efforts are often in vain - perhaps because of our inactions rather than our actions (e.g. HAZOP recommendations that don't even get considered let alone implemented or inspections, tests & audits that aren't thorough enough) - who would have though the mighty BASF would suffer such tragedy this year.

I leave you with this salient reminder (again from Mr Burns - Robert not Montgomery):

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley


You may know this as "the best laid plans of mice and men..." Do not let your plans (more importantly - your plants) go 'agley'. PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is such a universally simple principal, but none of the elements can be effective on their own, in other words "Say what you do and Do what you say".

So, to my Clan, Chums, Colleagues, Clients, Connections, Competitors & Critics and all who have passed this way, may I wish you and your families a Peaceful & Satisfying Christmas and a Prosperous & Safe New Year.

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