Safety Instrumented Systems

Here's How Control Automation Could Have Prevented Past Accidents

Revisit Three of Béla Lipták's Top Ask the Experts Columns Where He Talks About How Automation Could Have Saved Lives

By Katherine Bonfante

Process control authority and Control Columnist Béla Lipták says proper control automation could have prevented many accidents that occurred in the past. In fact, Lipták's Ask the Experts columns touch on this very same subject.

"Half of our industrial accidents are caused by human error," says Lipták. "I try to explain that safety provided by automation is NOT machine, but 'man made,' except that it is made by different man than the panicked rooky operators running around in the dark at 2 a. m."

If the proper safety controls systems were in place, many past accidents could have been completely avoided. Our process control expert says that life-safety automation should be designed by professional control engineers, who have spent months in identifying all potential “what if” sources of possible accidents, evaluated their potential consequences before deciding on the emergency actions that must be taken regardless what anybody says or do.

"I call this OSC - Overrule Safety Control, "says Lipták. "It can not be disabled by anything or anybody, but unfortunately, OSC does not exist yet."

This article lists three Ask the Experts columns covering how control automation could have prevented past major accidents.


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Automation Could Have Prevented Chernobyl

Bela Lipták tells how automatic safety controls could have prevented the accident at Chernobyl.

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More on BP Oil Spill

Lipták described how the BP blowout could have been prevented by correctly designed controls, but once the blowout started, could properly designed safety controls have prevented the loss of the 11 lives?

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How to Find Sealed Sensors, plus Pitot Tubes on Airplanes

In a past column, Lipták wrote about air transportation safety and the role of automation that should and could be increased to improve it. He also mentioned something about the role of Pitot tubes and their features. Here, Lipták elaborates.