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Inherently Safer Design: Harder Than It Sounds

June 9, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 23

The article on inherently safer design made it appear as if all one needs to do to implement inherently safer design is to walk into a chemical plant and turn a valve or push a switch (C&EN, March 10, page 11). Even Trevor Kletz stated that inherently safer design is best implemented in the design phase of the plant and is much more difficult to implement later, particularly after the plant is already operational. As chemists, we have the additional constraint that we need to work with the chemical reactions and chemicals that nature provided, and our selection of these is rarely optional.

The best risk-reduction method today is to apply inherently safer design as much as possible and then to use risk management to reduce the risk to acceptable levels. Both methods are needed and don’t exist separately.

Daniel Crowl
Salt Lake City

Reading the article on inherently safer design made me more concerned about how companies deal with safety. I work for a plastics compounding company where we use a minimum amount of hazardous chemicals. Being a conscientious employee regarding safety practices, I try to apply practices that I have learned and read about to our laboratories. I communicate the practices of reducing the amounts of hazardous chemicals purchased to reflect the amounts used for particular projects so as not to need to inventory large quantities for several years.

We are a technology leader in substituting hazardous materials in our formulation of nonhazardous chemicals. This has been noted by our state agencies in promoting toxic use reduction. Now that we are owned by a new company, we are involved in a companywide mandated safety program to assess risk and safety. I am hopeful that the program will look at the preventative assessment of risk to eliminate any possible future accidents or having to use reaction plans to address the root causes and corrective actions.

Cosmo V. Sabatino
Pepperell, Mass.



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