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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Transfer of knowledge key to process safety performance

07 May, 2013
In a speech in Aberdeen, Scotland, the incoming president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers(IChemE) and Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackitt CBE, has warned representatives of the offshore oil and gas and other major hazards industries about the need for young engineers to learn about key safety issues.

Speaking to 250 chemical engineers and their guests at a dinner in the week after 15 people lost their lives at the West Fertilizer Company in Texas, USA. Ms Hackitt, a chartered chemical engineer and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, used the opportunity to urge those who have learned the lessons from major disasters of the past, including Piper Alpha almost 25 years ago, to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

She told the many younger members of the audience “whilst this is an exciting time to be starting out on your career as an engineer, my generation has a responsibility to ensure that you too learn the lessons from our experiences. It is the only way to break this troubling pattern of tragic events which continue to occur in major hazards facilities around the globe”.

Hackitt also accepted a surprise award on behalf of HSE, for the regulator’s own outstanding contribution to process safety. IChemE’s Aberdeen members made the award in recognition of HSE Offshore Division’s dedicated implementation of an effective safety regime which has stood the test of time for more than 20 years.

In her speech Hackitt also used the speaking engagement to highlight some important changes at the Health and Safety Executive with the creation of a new Energy Division. The division has been created to further strengthen offshore regulation.

Hackitt worked for Exxon Chemicals for 15 years in various process management roles at Fawley. She was subsequently European Operations Director of a speciality pigments business before becoming Group Risk Manager at Elementis PLC with world-wide responsibility for health and safety insurance and litigation. She also served for three years as a non-executive Director of Oxfordshire Health Authority. “The practical steps we are taking to strengthen our offshore resources is a clear sign that we are staying true to our purpose of helping to make the North Sea a safer place to work,” she said.

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