Safety Responses

Aug. 11, 2009
Previous Safety Articles Create Controversy Among Readers. See Their Responses
This article was printed in CONTROL's August 2009 edition.

Punish Safety Violators

Thank you for the article on Bayer CropScience and their criminal activities surrounding the accident in West Virginia ("Another Major Safety Fail," Control, June '09, p. 9).

We will stop killing people when there are severe consequences for the owners and managers of companies that put people in harm's way. We will stop killing people when the multinational corporations are held accountable for the consequences of their decisions. As long as people like William Buckner of Bayer and Stuart Parnell of the Peanut Corp. of America, can walk away without severe punishment, the body count will continue to rise.

All are said to be equal under the law, but clearly those with money are more equal than the rest of us. Thanks again for the article. Keep up the good work!

Sam Grubb
Quality Control Manager

Applause, Applause

Your July issue column, "Functional Safety and Security—It's Cultural" (Control, July '09, p.9),  was excellent—a very thoughtful discussion on this topic—and I'm sure that Dow appreciates the great reference to their safety culture. Very nicely done!

Laura Patrick
Media Relations Manager
Process Automation Division

Nix the Adversarial Relationship

Your article ("Use Suppliers' Pricing Mistakes," Control, June '09, p.18) is typical of the purchasing department mentality that is the bane of engineers for several reasons.

  1. All equipment, whether $1 million or $1 tends to be treated with the same philosophy. If you're dealing with large expensive process equipment, serious negotiation may be profitable. On the other hand, if you're dealing with pressure gauges, the amount of money saved on the sale can be more than double-wasted on the negotiations. 
  2. An adversarial relationship with a vendor that has to be dealt with day in and day out may put the vendor on his guard about dealing with the engineer. Further, any mistake made by the engineer may not be pointed out by the vendor. This can create difficulties negotiating with the vendor or obtaining vendor assistance. And, if engineering errors do occur and are discovered by the engineer's client or worse yet, in the field, they can damage relations with the engineer's client. For control systems engineers, symbiotic relationships with vendors are very useful.
  3. Being too successful getting the lowest price can lead vendors to abandon the business, reduce the number of vendors, and make project development harder. One might answer that foreign vendors can fill the vacuum. However, dealing with foreign vendors creates its own problems, such as language barriers, which can lead to projects being extended. And, though this may seem desirable for a cost-plus project, it could lead to losing a client.

Over my 30+ years in the instrument engineering business, I've tried to maintain good relations with my vendors, but will become extremely irate if I feel a vendor is trying to take advantage of me. The purchasing department mentality hasn't made maintaining good relationships with suppliers any easier.

Stephen S. Curyk, PE
[email protected]


In Béla Lipták's article, "What Caused the Three Mile Island Accident?" (Control,  May '09, p.14, an error occurred. It should have stated "Control valves on cooling service should fail open and on heating service should fail closed." We regret the error.