(239b) Integrating Chemical Process Safety into a Chemical Engineering Curriculum | AIChE

(239b) Integrating Chemical Process Safety into a Chemical Engineering Curriculum


Davis, R. - Presenter, University of Minnesota Duluth
Xie, W., University of Minnesota - Duluth
Rother, M., University of Minnesota Duluth
Shimotori, T., University of Minnesota
In response to industry needs, ABET and our lead society AIChE set program accreditation criteria for the curriculum to include the design, analysis, and control of processes, including the hazards associated with these processes. [i] The impetus for this criterion stems from catastrophic accidents in the chemical process facilities that brought chemical process safety (CPS) to the national forefront. These accidents were attributed to the lack of training of engineers involved in their design and operation.[ii] The chemical industry and government agencies for oversight and investigation of incidents have recommended increased emphasis and training of chemical engineers in CPS. The result of these recommendations is the inclusion of safety in the criteria for the accreditation of Chemical Engineering programs by ABET.

The department faculty is committed to teaching chemical process safety. To sustain the program, we recognize that we are accountable to our constituents, including our faculty and staff, students, and industries that employ our graduates. We have enlisted the assistance of process safety professionals from the industry to provide guidance and feedback on our program enhancement activities. This integrated approach is sustained by our annual accreditation activities and reporting to and feedback from our department’s IAB.

Our approach to meeting these criteria integrates topics of CPS into the core curriculum of our four-year BSChE degree and graduate programs. By integrating safety into all program levels, we elevate the importance of CPS to the level of other pillars of the discipline, including chemistry, physics, and mathematics. We expect our approach fosters the skill of lifelong learning and commitment to CPS in our graduates.

Our primary objectives are for chemical engineers to graduate with a background in CPS and a safety culture. Engineers with a safety culture naturally act safely and encourage others to act safely. Joe Louvar wrote an editorial for the Dec 2012 issue of Process Safety Progress. He warned, “...our university students really don’t understand process hazards analysis or concepts of inherent safety. This is especially disappointing because these concepts are of paramount importance in an industrial environment.”

Many programs at other universities have responded by adding a course on chemical process safety into their curriculum. Our challenge with this approach is deciding what to eliminate from an already crowded curriculum. After several consultations with our department’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), we have determined to take a different approach by integrating safety instruction throughout our curriculum to emphasize the far-reaching importance of safety in practice and instill a safety culture in the department that stays with our students after graduation.

We have identified the following safety-related student learning outcomes. Our graduates:

  1. Understand the importance of CPS and required resources/commitment
  2. Can characterize hazards associated with chemicals/agents
  3. Understand/apply concepts of an inherently safer design
  4. Understand how to control/mitigate hazards to prevent accidents
  5. Are familiar with major regulations
  6. Understand consequences of incidents due to acute/chronic releases/exposures
  7. Are proficient with hazard identification procedures
  8. Have an introduction to the process of hazard evaluation/risk assessment

Another specific outcome for senior design is a systematic approach to assessing and discussing safety in the team presentations and reports. Students will have incorporated inherently safe design at the end of the capstone design course as an integral part and underlying theme of their projects and engineering work.

To reach these goals, we:

  • Provide our instructors and students with access to digital media for safety training through SAChE modules. The SAChE modules are assigned to match the core program courses required by all of our majors.
  • Work with our instructional staff to design and implement CPS active learning in their courses. These include:
    • student-produced safety training videos
    • student enrollment in AIChE to complete SAChE’s online safety certificate program
    • homework problem sets and projects around CPS
    • students’ problem-based learning in teams to submit a literature review on CPS and present their findings to the whole class
    • a capstone design project that requires consideration of safety constraints and design for inherent safety
  • Employ practical assessment methods, including rubrics for student outcomes, specific CPS performance indicators, and qualitative surveys.

We integrate teaching and learning of CPS across our curriculum by leveraging digital media for safety training available from a variety of resources, including the University of Minnesota Libraries and offices of Environmental Health and Safety, and with pedagogy for digitally enhanced instruction in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning. We also draw from digital media for industrial chemical process safety training available from the US Chemical Safety Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, American Institute for Chemical Engineers’ Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), Environmental Protection Agency, and industry-produced digital resources.

Our assessment plans match our campus assessment reporting requirements to streamline data-driven program assessment and continual improvement.

[i] https://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-a...

[ii] Chemical Safety Board, Investigation Report, T2 Laboratories, Inc., Runaway Reaction, Report No. 2008-3-I-FL, Sept., 2009