From the Brink of Disaster Lessons for Electrical Safety and Reliability

Engineering advancements throughout the 20th century enabled tremendous benefits to modern society and our way of life. Sometimes the evolution of technology advancements outpaced development of understanding and knowledge in how to apply new technology safely. Unfortunately, high profile disasters exhibiting gaps in managing risks, including Texas City (1947), Flixborough (1974), Three Mile Island (1979), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), Challenger (1986), Piper Alpha (1988), Texas City (2005) and Deepwater Horizon (2010) have been so severe to garner international attention. These high profile industrial/technical disasters were investigated with exceptional rigor to help assure identification of the contributing causes that resulted in high losses in human life, impact on the environment, and billions of dollars in property losses and liability damages. The lessons from these disasters have had wide impact on codes, standards, and regulations impacting systems design, reliability and maintenance systems, safety management, and operating discipline. Beyond their initial investigations, these disasters spawned numerous third party articles and books to further advance understanding of how these events occurred and what can be done to prevent them. How effectively have we applied these lessons to maintenance of critical electrical equipment and electrical safety in the workplace? This paper explores opportunities to apply key learnings from these disasters to compliment widely recognized best practices in managing electrical systems maintenance and personnel safety in the workplace.
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