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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Process safety is becoming a greater focus of chemical plant design and operation due to the number of incidents involving dangerous chemical accidents. Since its creation nearly 20 years ago, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has investigated 130 safety incidents and provided over 800 safety recommendations to operating chemical facilities. Following a gas well blowout in 2018, the CSB gave a recommendation to the American Petroleum Institute (API) to establish recommended practice on alarm management. Similarly, in 2017, the CSB gave a recommendation to Arkema Inc. to update their emergency response training following a hurricane that caused a fire atmore »one of their manufacturing sites. Many times, CSB-led investigations resulted in new regulations and standards that are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These critical recommendations positively impact not only the plant workers but also the surrounding community and the environment. While these safety measures enhance industrial safety culture, it is important that process safety also be integrated into university-level engineering curricula to promote safety culture while future engineers are still developing. Integrating process safety into the curriculum prepares students by familiarizing them with the difficult decisions they will be required to make in professional practice. ABET, the engineering program accreditation body, acknowledges the value of early, appropriate training within their program guidelines “Criteria for Chemical Engineering Curriculum” which states that recognition and assessment of the hazards associated with chemical processes must be included in the curriculum for program accreditation. Based on this requirement, many institutions have taken the approach to integrate process safety into their curriculum using video case studies, adding entire courses to cover hazard identification, and including safety lectures in design courses. A common theme missing from these methods is instruction on how to approach, recognize, and navigate decisions within a process safety context; a lack of this situational awareness was noted as a key element in industrial process safety incidents. Understanding how students approach process safety decisions is important for developing teaching methods and curriculum that will better prepare them for professional practice. As part of this study, we will measure how students rank criteria associated with process safety decisions, and how these prioritizations change after exposure to a process safety decision making intervention. Through this work, we hope to determine how process safety curriculum may be improved to help better prepare students for process safety decisions within industry.« less
  3. Every year new safety features and regulations are employed within the process industry to reduce risks associated with operations. Despite these advancements chemical plants remain hazardous places, and the role of the engineer will always involve risk mitigation through real time decision making. Results from a previous study by Kongsvik et al., 2015 indicated that there were three types of decisions in major chemical plants: strategic decisions, operational decisions, and instantaneous decisions. The study showed the importance for improving upon engineers’ operational and instantaneous choices when tasked with quick solutions in the workforce. In this research study, we dive deepermore »to understand how senior chemical engineering students’ prioritize components of decision making such as budget, productivity, relationships, safety, and time, and how this prioritization may change as a result of participation in a digital immersive training environment called Contents Under Pressure. More specifically, we seek to address the following two research questions: (1) How do senior chemical engineering students prioritize safety in comparison to criteria such as budget, personal relationships, plant productivity, and time in a process safety context, and (2) How does senior chemical engineering students’ prioritization of decision making criteria (budget, personal relationships, plant productivity, safety, and time) change after exposure to a virtual process safety decision making environment? As part of this study, 187 senior chemical engineering students from three separate institutions completed a pre- and post-reflection survey around their engagement with Contents Under Pressure and asked them to rank their prioritizations of budget, productivity, relationships, safety, and time. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, and Friedman and Wilcoxon-sign-rank post hoc analyses were completed to determine any statistical differences between the rankings of decision making factors before and after engagement with Contents Under Pressure. Simulating process safety decision making with interactive educational supports may increase students’ understanding of genuine workplace environments and factors that contribute to process safety, without the real world hazards that result from poor decision making. By understanding how students prioritize these factors, chemical engineering curricula can be adapted to focus on the areas of process safety decision making where students need the largest improvement, thereby better preparing them to enter the engineering workforce.« less