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Why Is It so Difficult to Learn From Someone Else’s Mistakes?

Author : Tino Vande Capelle – HIMA GmbH Functional Safety Consultancy Services, TÜV Functional Safety Expert

28 November 2013

Why is it so difficult to learn from mistakes others have made in our industry? Would you rather learn from the mistakes of others or make them all yourself? Certainly, you will learn better by making your own mistakes, but those lessons can come with extreme high risk and cost. 


HazardEx 2014 conference speaker
HazardEx 2014 conference speaker

**This paper will be presented at HazardEx 2014, contact us for details of the available delegate packages & offers** 

There have been several unfortunate industrial disasters in the process industry in the past. There will likely be many more to follow as our daily working conditions,materials, equipment and performances keep changing and getting more and more demanding. Major accidents like Seveso, Flixborough, Piper Alpha, Bhopal,Chernobyl, Texas City, and the most recent Deepwater Horizon have all painfully revealed certain failures that we can learn from. Failures that come with a cost of life, environment and capital investment. Today, we have the knowledge that each of them could have been prevented if people would have designed the plant or process for failure and used adequate competency to avoid such things happening again in the future. But as Mr. T. Kletz once stated: “Accidents arenot due to lack of knowledge but failure to use the knowledge we have.”

Human nature does not like to admit or reveal knowledge of problems. So for the past 30 years, certain standards have helped engineers apply good engineering practices, but the weakest link in the safety culture remains the human being.Standards such as, but not limited to, DIN 19250, ISA 84.00.01, IEC 61508 &61511 have been put in place to force a safety culture in our industry in the hopes of achieving a better world where people, environment and investment can be safe.

The presentation will begin with a short overview of some of the major accidents followed by a discussion on how these accidents have influenced the safety standards & culture. New technologies have forced some of those Functional Safety Standards to bring out revisions. Edition 2.0 of the IEC 61508 has been released since April 2010 and has some magnificent changes. In closing, competency of every human working in the lifecycle of our process industry, in order to achieve the adequate safety culture, is becoming the ‘de facto standard’ for those who want to keep their plant safe, productive and avoid very costly penalties and lawsuits if things go wrong like in the past have been proven.Over the last 7 years, the author has been training world wide +1500 people under the competency review program from TÜV Rheinland and will give the audience a top 10 of the most common failures found among all participants.

Tino Vande Cappelle - Hima GmbH
Tino Vande Cappelle - Hima GmbH


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