Chemical industry has evolved dramatically since the first sulfuric acid manufacturing plant was established in the 18thcentury. Modern day chemical plant is an engineering marvel producing valuable chemicals necessary for the societal progress. Although safe for the most part, chemical industries have witnessed a few significant accidents in the last two decades. The Bhopal disaster marked the turning point in the history of chemical plant’s process safety. The Bhopal disaster resulted in an increased concern and anxiety among everyone safe operation of a plant. There are several landmark events that followed the 1984 Bhopal disaster:
- Establishment of the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), 1985
- Passing of the Clean Air Act Ammendments, 1990
- Establishment of the Chemical Safety Board, 1999
In spite of the increased regulations and top-management support for safe operations and environment, there have been incidents in chemical plants that have resulted in fatalities. The question on everyone’s mind is can we have plants with zero incidents? Or are things bound to go wrong?
As we make progress in safety research and technologies, it is probable that the technology will asymptotically approach a perfect safe operation; however, we cannot take away human intervention and possibility of human error. It is therefore a valid argument that moving forward in the next few decades human error will be a major contributing factor in industrial accidents.