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By Gregory Hale
Want to have a stronger process safety environment and ingrain safety principles in engineers’ minds? Start early.

“Process safety is keeping hazardous materials and energy in the equipment and piping systems to prevent catastrophic fires, explosions and toxic releases,” said Matthew Koenings, retired DuPont vice president of operations and chief engineer during his keynote during the 15th Global Congress on Process Safety held in conjunction with the 2019 AIChE Spring Meeting in New Orleans, LA. “We want to make sure we are bringing all the right tools to everyone to eliminate process safety incidents for everyone.”

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Koenings mentioned reasons to promote safety:
• Safety culture
• Responsible operations
• Want to make sure AIChE and CCPS are the go to resources
• Fostering knowledge and understanding of safety
• Society expects it from us

“What we have learned is early education is a critical success factor for engineers in the process safety industries,” Koenings said. “We have made huge progress moving forward on a global scale.”

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Part of the education is taking part in the Undergraduate Process Safety Learning Initiative (UPSLI) which occurs through AIChE’s Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS).

“What we are doing with the undergraduate program is we are getting undergraduates early and baking (safety) into their heads; into the culture coming out of the university in a way that it is much more effective,” Koenings said. “All companies are going to want to build on that and you are going to want to get some on the job education and experience for some advanced skills. But the basic skills are so fundamental and so broadly held that I think it is great we can do this in an informal, uniform way that is actually certified and recognized by people in the industry and academia.”

There is a three-pronged approach to the program looking at modernizing and developing curriculum, engaging and educating students, and educating faculty.

“I think the three pieces work together well,” Koenings said.

The vision for process safety in chemical engineering education is in 8 to 10 years, all graduating students anywhere in the world will have learned the process safety basics necessary to have a successful and safe chemical engineerin career. To get there:
• Professors will appreciate process safety and be knowledgeable enough to teach it
• The necessary instructional materials and textbooks will be available
• Language of instruction will in be an obstacle
• Industry will strongly reinforce both the need for process safety and the education of professors and students
• Fully funded by industry leaders

While Koenings said they are making great advances, they are continually trying to improve and grow the program.

“There is a lot more work to be done,” Koenings said. “We are undergoing a global effort. We are trying to reduce catastrophic process safety incidents across the world. And education is a part of it.”

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