On a recent talk radio program, Zeynep Ton, the author of the book The Good Jobs Strategy, discussed the defining factors of a good job — fair wages, predictable schedules, and opportunities for growth and success. The last element — opportunities for growth and success —? reminded me of incidents that occurred during my career as a process safety specialist. Often, the people involved with safety incidents, typically operators, had no chance for success, and in some cases, operators unfairly bore the brunt of the blame, as well as the consequences.
For example, a runaway reaction occurred at a Patterson, NJ, chemical plant after chemists, engineers, and/or manufacturing management made two flawed decisions. The first was to run an exothermic batch reaction with all of the reactants present at the same time, and the second was to increase the batch size. The instructions given to the operators on how to run the reaction were vague, and included imprecise directions that involved heating to start the reaction and then cooling before the reaction got out of control. The operators recorded their observations about how difficult it was to maintain control of the reaction over the course of the first 19 batches, but those logs were never reviewed...
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