Who Moved My Cheese? How Climate Change Can Have Unforeseen Process Safety Impacts

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We are observing a gradual increase in process safety incidents triggered by natural causes. Traditional prevention measures, such as good engineering practices and the sound design of plants and processes, seem to be failing. In this paper, we analyze the causes and recommend a course of action to reestablish acceptable safety levels.

We are observing more and more of what planetary scientists call “extreme weather”: droughts, but also flooding; scorching heat, but also extreme cold; wildfires, thunderstorms, hurricanes and more. At the same time, we have observed process safety incidents increasing in number and severity and which can be directly linked to abnormal weather conditions.
Conventional wisdom expects us to define maximum and minimum temperatures, humidity, wind speed, precipitation and maybe a couple of additional parameters for the site in question and then declare mission accomplished. The problem is, conventional wisdom may fail in several ways. With the rise of Natechs, or industrial accidents with natural causes, specifically those resulting from climate change, we are witnessing a fundamental weakness in the traditional preventive framework.
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