Tributes pour in for chemical process safety expert Dr Trevor Kletz

Published:  06 November, 2013

Dr Kletz pioneered the concept of safer technology and processes.

Beginning as a research chemist in the UK Dr Kletz was soon established as an expert in chemical process safety, safety culture, and as an advocate – indeed the father of – the concept of inherently safer technology and processes.

His paper “What You Don’t Have Can’t Leak” became a foundation for all safety studies and, according to the Chemical Safety Board (US), his teachings on accident investigations refocused the emphasis from individual lapses to systems’ failures and safer design. These concepts fostered a revolution in modern safety management thinking.

After retiring in 1982, Dr. Kletz established a second career as an author, speaker and academic, working as adjunct professor of the Texas A&M University and Visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University in the UK.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso commented: ‘We felt particularly attached to the work of Dr. Kletz as his commentary – excerpted from a CSB interview with him -- is featured prominently in our 2008 CSB safety video, “Anatomy of a Disaster,” which tells the story of the BP Texas City refinery accident in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.’

You can see the CSB’s video tribute to Dr Kletz, who died 31 October, below:

Notable comments

‘There's an old saying that if you think safety is expensive, try an accident. Accidents cost a lot of money. And, not only in damage to plant and in claims for injury, but also in the loss of the company's reputation.’

‘Well, after an accident, managers often say, “I didn't know this was happening or not happening,” as the case may be, “if I'd known it, I'd have stopped it.”  Now this is bad management.  It's the manager's job to know what is going on.  And, he can do that by going round and by keeping his eyes open and reading the accident reports in detail.’

‘For a long time, people were saying that most accidents were due to human error and this is true in a sense but it's not very helpful.  It's a bit like saying that falls are due to gravity.’


Books written by Professor Kletz include:

  • What Went Wrong: Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters and How They Could Have Been Avoided (Butterworth-Heinema... by Kletz (1 Jun 2009)
  • Learning from Accidents by Kletz, Trevor (18 Jul 2001)
  • Computer Control and Human Error in the Process Industries by Kletz, Trevor (1 Jan 1995)
  • Hazop & Hazan: Identifying and Assessing Process Industry Hazards, Fouth Edition by Trevor A. Kletz (1 Sep 1999)
  • Still Going Wrong!: Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters and How They Could Have Been Avoided by Kletz, Trevor (10 Oct 2003)
  • Process Plants: A Handbook for Inherently Safer Design, Second Edition by Kletz and Trevor A. (14 May 2012)
  • What Went Wrong?: Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters by Kletz, Trevor (31 May 1985)
  • An Engineer's View of Human Error, Third Edition by Trevor Kletz (10 Jul 2001)
  • Dispelling chemical industry myths (Chemical Engineering) by Trevor A. Kletz (1 Jul 1996)
  • Learning from Accidents in Industry by Trevor A. Kletz (Mar 1988)
  • Plant Design for Safety: A User-friendly Approach by Trevor A. Kletz (1 Nov 1990)
  • Critical Aspects of Safety and Loss Prevention by Trevor A. Kletz (31 Jan 1990)
  • Improving Chemical Engineering Practices: A New Look at Old Myths of the Chemical Industry by Trevor A. Kletz (1 Sep 1989)
  • Lessons from Disaster: How Organizations Have No Memory and Accidents Recur by Trevor A. Kletz (Apr 1993)

  • Operation Florian

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