"Are There Gorillas in Your Plant"

"Process Safety in Action" session examines little known safety factors, such as "inattentional blindness," at AIChE's Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
March 26, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – Safe practices in chemical and related industries, along with methods to identify and eliminate potential hazards, will be in the spotlight at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE’s) 2014 Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety at the Hilton New Orleans – Riverside from March 30 to April 3.

On Tuesday, April 1, Elliot Wolf (Syngenta Crop Protection, Greensboro, NC) and Robert F. Wasileski, III (NOVA Chemicals, Inc., Moon Township, PA) will present, “The Illusion of Attention: Are there Gorillas in Your Plant?” According to Wolf and Wasileski, the ability to recognize hazardous conditions is essential to managing risk. However, our ability to accurately observe our surroundings is limited by our “attentional resources.”  The failure to notice an unexpected stimulus in one’s field of vision while performing other attention-demanding tasks is a cognitive phenomenon known as inattentional blindness.

To illustrate this phenomenon, the speakers invoke a familiar experiment in which test subjects — who are asked to concentrate on a video of people passing a basketball — become oblivious to other intervening actions, including a person in a gorilla costume who wanders through the field of vision. The presentation explores evidence obtained from actual plant safety observations that suggest that inattentional blindness can often present a danger. The authors present a model for Organizational Management of Change (OMOC) to address this phenomenon through awareness, training, and changes in the safety culture of a workplace.

Other papers included in the “Process Safety in Action” session are:

  • “How Are We Doing? — Merging Process Safety Management Metrics and Management Systems,” which describe how companies can identify and address process safety-related risks across functional areas, to ensure that decisions made at any level do not increase overall risk. The presentation is based on a new book, “Guidelines for Integrating Management Systems and Metrics to Improve Process Safety,” to be published by AIChE’s Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS).
  • Where Are We Going? — Visions 2020,” which provides a status report on the chemical industry’s Vision 2020 initiative to establish strategic objectives for the chemical process industries.

The meeting, consisting of 150 sessions across eight topical conferences and special program tracks, is expected to draw more than 2,400 practitioners from 50 countries. It also includes the 3rd Process Safety Management Mentoring (PSM2) Forum, which is dedicated to sharing process safety management information with young engineers entering the oil, gas, chemicals, and allied fields.

For more information about the conference or related workshops and meetings, please go to: http://www.aiche.org/spring.

Editor’s Note: 

Journalists interested in covering the conference should contact Danielle Gross at dgross@thebravogroup.com

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AIChE is a professional society of more than 45,000 chemical engineers in 100 countries. Its members work in corporations, universities and government using their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society. Through its varied programs, AIChE continues to be a focal point for information exchange on the frontiers of chemical engineering research in such areas as energy, sustainability, biological and environmental engineering, nanotechnology and chemical plant safety and security. More information about AIChE is available at www.aiche.org.