A recent recommendation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology called for universities to include reactive hazard awareness into chemical engineering curriculums. The Department of Chemical Engineering at West Virginia University did just that for the first time in mid-April when it offered a two-day Process Safety Boot Camp.

The course, which was sponsored by Bayer MaterialSciences, LLC, was led by Louisa Nara, the technical director for the Center for Chemical Process Safety with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and a 1981 graduate of WVU.

Don Abrahamson, a CCPS staff consultant, and 44-year industry veteran, assisted with the instruction. Bayer MaterialScience participates in the Scale-up Program through the AIChE Foundation. As part of the sponsorship, Bayer provided each student with a copy of the book, “Incidents that Defined Process Safety.”

CCPS/AIChE offers a four-day version of the course to professionals in the field, providing companies with the opportunity to train chemical engineers on the fundamentals of process safety. This is the first time it was offered to a university.

In 2011, Nara was inducted into WVU’s Chemical Engineering Academy and spoke with Rakesh Gupta, George B. and Carolyn A. Berry Professor and chair of chemical engineering, about incorporating the program into the curriculum.

“I spoke with Dr. Gupta about donating my time and part of my expenses to conduct the Process Safety Boot Camp as a way of to giving give back to the Department and the students and support WVU in meeting the new ABET requirements for chemical engineering curriculums,” Nara said. “The course provides a solid foundation for these students as they move into industry and gives them an awareness of the vulnerability that we all face in processing and manufacturing hazardous materials.”

ABET’s recommendation to include this component into curriculums came as a result of findings related to the fatal reactive chemical accident that occurred at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2007. Investigators found that employees did not recognize all of the potential hazards when designing their process for making a gasoline additive, despite one employee having a degree in chemical engineering. The explosion and fire killed four T2 employees and injured four others. A U.S. Chemical Safety Board report called for improving the education of chemical engineering students on reactive chemical hazards.

“It is extremely important that our students graduate with a proper knowledge and appreciation of process safety,” said Gupta. “The process safety boot camp introduced students to proven best practices and a culture of safety. What they learned will help them throughout their professional careers. We are thankful to Louisa and Don for volunteering their time and efforts to make us the first university in the country to host such an event.”

Amanda Thorp, a senior from Weirton, W.Va., was one of the students selected to participate in the camp.

“Process safety is particularly relevant to those in the manufacturing, chemical and petroleum/natural gas industries,” said Thorp, who will begin her career upon graduation in May with BP at the BP-Husky Refinery in Ohio. “When I begin my job with BP, I will be dealing with higher-risk processes and procedures. I will be able to take what I learned about process safety and use that knowledge to help improve the safety culture of the plant as well as make sure we are taking all the necessary precautions to prevent and mitigate hazardous incidents.”

The two-day course utilized case histories and videos to emphasize the importance of risk-based process safety and its implementation into the workplace.

“We learned about the importance of good Process Safety culture, including compliance with standards, competency, hazard identification and risk analysis,” said Thorp. “We also learned about safe operating procedures and practices as well as incident investigations, asset integrity and much more. My favorite part of the experience was hearing about case studies. I believe we can learn a lot from past mistakes.”



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon
304-293-4086; mary.dillon@mail.wvu.edu