Using incident reporting to integrate hazard analysis and risk assessment into the unit operations lab

Sarah A. Wilson, Samira M. Azarin Azarin, Christopher Barr, Janie Brennan, Tracy L. Carter, Amy J. Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Since 2017, instructors from six universities have collaborated to better understand and improve the integration of process safety into chemical engineering unit operations (UO) laboratories. While past studies by the team have focused on assessing the state of UO lab safety education, the current study aims to implement new strategies for improving process safety education in the UO labs. By examining the Safety and Chemical Engineering (SAChE) process safety learning outcomes, hazard analysis and risk assessment were identified as the first priority for integration into these university labs, as they are most relevant to a laboratory setting and not heavily covered elsewhere in these university chemical engineering curricula. For integration, a safety incident reporting structure was developed to allow students to report safety incidents and assess hazards and risk levels. Students were asked to categorize the incidents as being related to personal, process, or environmental safety, and were then asked to assess risk levels. The goals of the reporting structure were to increase student awareness of these topics, improve safety culture, and develop an understanding of actual risk frequencies in the undergraduate teaching labs. After development, four of the six universities were able to implement the reporting structure in their UO labs, although specific data could only be reported from three due to timing of IRB approval. Risk and frequencies were determined by analyzing over 400 incidents or near-misses from these three universities, showing that 62% of safety incidents were related to personal safety, whereas 18% were process-related and 20% were environment-related. Of those incidents, 45% were characterized as near-miss incidents where students were able to prevent the hazard from escalating to a level requiring intervention. Prior to implementing this system, very little or no documentation on safety incidents was kept; often, only incidents requiring medical attention were reported to the instructor and/or lab manager. Pre- and post-tests were also utilized to understand the impact of the incident reporting on process safety-related learning outcomes. From the pre-test data (approximately 200 total students) at the start of the semester, students had a stronger understanding of personal safety than they did process or environmental safety. When comparing pre- and post-survey data, self-reported knowledge levels were significantly improved for understanding of consequence, frequency, process safety and environmental safety. Interestingly, improvements in self-reported understanding and knowledge gains were stronger for those students who had never completed an industrial internship. To date, all instructors have observed that the incident reporting structure has resulted in a positive change to the safety culture of the laboratories. These results alone show the positive effect of integrating incident reporting into the UO laboratories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1508
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

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Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education 2020.


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