Spotlight on Safety: Risk, Not Chance | AIChE

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Spotlight on Safety: Risk, Not Chance


Risk is a fact of life. It is a factor in almost every decision we make. In occupations such as business and finance, risk takers are often heralded. Take a chance on the stock market, and you can get a big payout. But, when it comes to our industry, many think chemical engineering and risk combine as well as oil and water (insoluble oil, that is).

As engineers, however, our jobs require us to accept some risks. Risk has three components: the event that could occur, the probability of it occurring, and the impacts or consequences. In chemical engineering, consequences can be dire, including human injury and environmental damage.To evaluate risk, we define it as a function of the likelihood and the consequences of an incident, i.e., Risk = f(Likelihood, Consequence). This allows us to take risk, but only with consideration of what can go wrong and with established designs and procedures in place to reduce the probability or consequence of an...

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