(95c) Systematic Approaches to Mitigate Hazards in the Design and Operation of Experimental Systems

Kasick, A. - Presenter, Ohio University
Lee, S., Ohio University
In academic laboratories studying process engineering, researchers perform work with a variety of different experimental systems and process units. In some cases, the units were developed years ago by researchers who have since moved on from the Lab, in other cases, old units were reworked to meet contemporary experimental needs, while in other cases, new units were constructed from scratch. Such practices, along with the diverse backgrounds of the researchers in the Lab, create the potential for divergent notions of what constitutes “safe practices”; therefore, developing organizational practices that promote safe design and operation of experimental units are critical in establishing habitually safe practices in the Lab. The importance of such practices is heightened when the designed system deals with reactive, flammable, explosive, and/or toxic substances. While in industry tools and resources such as codes and inspections have existed for decades to ensure uniformity throughout industry, in academia attention has only recently been directed towards evaluating how a culture of safety can be promoted with regards to custom-built experimental process units.

Recently, efforts in our Lab have centered upon the construction of a new experimental hydrogenation system for synthesizing a specialty chemical, during which attention has been directed towards identifying the potential hazards posed by the system, and the proposed experimentation, along with assessing the potential impact a failure could have. The process of identifying and assessing hazards was a critical first step in prioritizing which aspects of the system are in most need of attention. Once the most significant hazards had been determined and the design approach was established, the instrumentation and equipment available to address or mitigate the hazards were considered; such an evaluation was critical in working to design an inherently safer system. Finally, effort was devoted to implementing a data acquisition and control approach that allowed for reliable monitoring of the conditions of the system. Record keeping and documentation of the design process and operational details serves as an invaluable tool for sustainable safety of the process system.

With appropriate documentation of this process and its experimental system, and learning about safety practice protocols established in industry, these efforts are being used to develop practices within the Lab that will elevate work involving experimental process units to new levels of universal appreciation and application of safe design and operational procedures.


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