The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said Wednesday that it was
saddened to learn of the death of the one of the worlds
greatest authorities on chemical process safety, Dr. Trevor
Starting as a research
chemist in the United Kingdom, Dr. Kletzs career in
industry established him as an expert in chemical process
safety, safety culture, and as an advocate -- indeed the
father of -- the concept of inherently safer technology
One of his seminal papers was entitled, What You
Dont Have Cant Leak. 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
After retiring in 1982, Dr. Kletz established a second career
as an author, speaker and academic. He served in recent years
as adjunct professor of the Texas A&M University and
Visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough
University in the UK.
In addition, commentary from Dr. Kletz -- excerpted from a
CSB interview with him -- is featured prominently in the 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.
In the video, Dr. Kletz says: 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. And in another segment, on the
companys reporting and learning culture: 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
Another comment from that video notes that accident
prevention should be about looking for root causes, and not
individual blame: 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.
The titles of just some of Dr. Kletzs many
authoritative books display his keen focus on making
processes safer: What Went Wrong?
Lessons from Accidents, Process Plants -- a
Handbook for Inherently Safer Design, and By
Accident -- a Life Preventing Them in Industry.
Dr. Kletz was 91 years old.