Editorial: The Beacon Just Turned 20. Feel Old Yet? | AIChE

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Editorial: The Beacon Just Turned 20. Feel Old Yet?



November 2021 marks the 20-year anniversary of the Process Safety Beacon — a monthly one-page flyer that describes process safety incidents, root causes, and lessons learned. The Beacon is put together by a team of experts organized by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), and CEP republishes the Beacon each month in an effort to spread the message of process safety to an even broader audience. The Beacon is written for engineers and frontline plant workers, such as operators, supervisors, and maintenance workers. Although it had a humble start, the Beacon is now distributed to 40,000 subscribers and is offered in nearly 40 languages.

The first Beacon, published in November 2001, was titled “Trace quantities of flammables can cause an event like this!” It discussed how a flammable vapor space can develop in a vessel even when only trace quantities of a flammable material are present. The Beacon gave advice on how to prevent such a situation from occurring in your facility — e.g., installing a purging flow in the vapor space to maintain the flammable concentration below the lower explosive limit (LEL). Such advice is certainly still relevant today.

Some other notable happenings took place in November 2001, including the release of the first Harry Potter movie in theaters and the launch of the Xbox and GameCube gaming systems. In the world of sports, Tom Brady stepped in as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, going on to win his first Super Bowl at the end of that season. To me, 2001 doesn’t feel all that long ago, but a lot has changed since then.

One of the primary benefits of the Beacon is that, despite the great changes that our industry and society have experienced over the past 20 years, nearly every Beacon is still applicable to today’s chemical process industry. Take, for example, the topic of static electricity. The hazards of static have been covered at least six times in the Beacon over the years. Static was most recently discussed in the Feb. 2021 Beacon, which described two fire/explosion incidents that occurred in 2007 and were caused by static sparks igniting flammable vapors. What’s interesting is that static electricity hazards were actually covered in both the July 2003 and August 2006 Beacons. Despite efforts of process safety professionals to prevent history from repeating itself, accidents are still bound to happen. However, by raising awareness of the hazard, who knows how many similar static-discharge incidents the Beacon may have prevented.

Something that I really appreciate about the Beacon is the catchy and fun titles that the CCPS committee have scrupulously chosen when naming each article. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The seal that didn’t perform (July 2002)
  • It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s A PUMP (October 2002)
  • Well-Identified Flying Objects (December 2019).

Clearly, the team that puts together the Beacon has a good sense of humor, which can help make these important process safety lessons more memorable for readers. Check out all the past Beacons at aiche.org/ccps/process-safety-beacon.

Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief


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