Obituary: Trevor Kletz (1922 – 2013)

Renowned safety expert Trevor Kletz passed away on 31 October 2013, aged 91.

Trevor Kletz was one of industry’s most respected figures following a celebrated career as an industry safety advisor, lecturer and writer.

Trevor worked for ICI between 1944 and 1982.  In 1968 he was appointed as one of the process industry’s first technical safety advisors, advising designers and operators about how to avoid hazardous process plant accidents.   During this time ICI developed Hazard and Operability Studies (HAZOP), which Trevor was an enthusiastic advocate of, and he authored the first book on the subject, Hazop and Hazan.

Trevor built a second career as a process safety consultant, writer and lecturer after leaving ICI. He was elected a Fellow of IChemE in 1978, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1984 and awarded an OBE for services to process safety in 1997.   Trevor authored 14 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed papers on process safety, including:

  • Lessons from disaster – How organisations have no memory and accidents recur
  • What went wrong?: Case histories of process plant disasters and how they could have been avoided
  • An engineer’s view of human error

Trevor remained active professionally until earlier this year where a formal retirement reception was staged at IChemE’s Hazards 23 conference in Southport, UK.

HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said “Trevor’s impact on industry was striking. His ability to convey safety information succinctly, and effectively, was central to his success.”

As a process safety pioneer, Trevor Kletz undoubtedly saved lives, and inspired others to do the same.

One Response to Obituary: Trevor Kletz (1922 – 2013)

  1. Obituary: Trevor A. Kletz

    The sad demise of Trevor A. Kletz on 31st October last was indeed a
    great loss to the whole of safety practitioners in the chemical
    processing industry.

    It is undisputable today that modern chemical plants provide a safe
    working environment, though there is still scope for further
    improvements. This situation has been emerged out of the contribution
    of a number of safety professionals, plant operators, process
    designers and facility managers in the industry in an evolutionary
    manner throughout the last century and prominent among them was Trvor
    A. Kletz, the safety guru ,who worked with ICI , UK for 38 years.
    Kletz pioneered the movement to update safety requirements of the
    industry in a persistant, imaginative and dedicated manner that is
    universally accepted as the best approach in reducing the risk to life
    and property in the industry. He and his comrades studied cases of
    accidents that caught their attention with a powerful analytical mind
    and with logical reasoning of good order to decipher what really went
    wrong. He advocated to learn from case histories, improve designs and
    operating philosophies in the most convincing manner that everybody
    who are really concerned with improvement of safety of the work place
    readily accepted his advices

    As Chairman,ICI Sir John Harvey-Jones,Chairman remarked in his
    biography, Trevor single handedly taught them to look at safety in a
    different way and demonstrated the hazards people unwittingly

    It was under his leadership that ICI developed many safety standards,
    practices and procedures, all of which later became part of hazard
    management in process industries. Two of his works, Lessons from
    disaster and What went wrong?, are important in this context and need
    special mention. Another major contribution to process safety that
    developed out of critical examination of process designs to check
    inefficiencies was the Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP).The HAZOP
    as we know today developed during the early 1960s and Trevor did
    contribute much to perfect it to a high degree of reliability and
    advocated for its universal practice among all process designers.

    He always highlighted the importance of designing plants with minimum
    inventory of hazardous materials or use of safer materials instead
    exercising prudent control on in-plant modifications. ‘What you don’t
    have can’t leak’ he suggested and this paved way for developing
    inherently safer designs.

    His was missionary work learning, teaching, practicing, discussing,
    improving and preaching safety .He was successful in changing and
    improvising practices that hitherto remained uncared in chemical
    plants during the course of his own working life- a feat rarely
    achieved only by few people. He has contributed a wealth of literature
    on accident prevention and safety to the industry that are well
    recognized. These books are characterized by originality of thought,
    down to earth approaches and are written in simple language and with
    an abundant sense of practical wisdom more often aligned to the
    operability part of safety issues.

    He retired from ICI in 1982 and since then is engaged in consultancy
    and teaching. In the mean time many laurels came to him. He was
    appointed an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997.

    At this saddest occasion our sympathies go to the dear and near ones
    who loved him and the legion of chemical engineers who following his
    steps.. carved out a profession in safety in the processing industry.
    His memory and work will continue to inspire generations of chemical
    engineers to come to achieve the ultimate goal of zero accidents at
    our workplaces.
    Dr MP Sukumaran Nair
    Centre for Green Technology & Management
    Cochin, India

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