Last year at the Global Congress for Process Safety we presented a paper entitled, “Beware of the Black Swan: The Limitations of Risk Analysis for Predicting the Extreme Impact of Rare Process Safety Incidents.” The paper discussed the difficulties of predicting black swan events, rare but catastrophic occurrences that continue to happen in the chemical processing industries. Once black swan events occur, after investigations and development of lessons learned, they become white swans. By white swans we mean these type of events become more predictable and as we do hazard identification and risk analysis we become cognizant of the similar potential scenarios in new plants and plant modifications, as least for a while. This paper discusses how white swans slowly become greyer as time goes on if the lessons learned from black swan events are not kept fresh. Examples of black swans that become white swans and then become grey as time goes on will be discussed. Ideas of how to keep the white swans from becoming grey with time will also be discussed. Management has a key role in keeping white swans white.
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