Remembering chemical process safety guru Dr Trevor Kletz

The health and safety sector was saddened to learn of the death of one of the world’s utmost authorities on chemical process safety, Dr Trevor Kletz, on October 31, 2013.

Dr. Trevor Kletz, who started out as a research chemist in the United Kingdom, quickly established a career in chemical process safety.

Considered by many as the father of inherently safer technology and processes, his approach to accident investigations triggered radical changes in modern safety management thinking.

Dr. Trevor Kletz turned the safety table on its head by repositioning the focus from individual lapses to systems failures and safer design. This approach still underpins the majority of leading process safety practices today.

Later life

Dr Kletz retired in 1982 but would continue to pursue his passion for safety as an author, speaker and academic. As such, he gained accolades for his unrelenting commitment to safety and ability to communicate his complex methodologies in such a simple and effective way.

Recent years saw Dr Kletz serve as adjunct professor at the Texas A&M University and visiting professor of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University in the UK.

The US Chemical Safety Board interviewed Dr Kletz in 2008 as part of its safety video “Anatomy of a Disaster” which tells the story of the BP Texas City refinery accident in 2005.

In the video, Dr. Kletz says in his famously candid style: “There’s an old saying that if you think safety is expensive, try an accident.

“Accidents cost a lot of money. And, not only in damage to plant and in claims for injury, but also in the loss of the company’s reputation.”

Dr Kletz also speaks of why accident prevention shouldn’t be about assigning individual blame, but rather unearthing the root causes.

“For a long time, people were saying that most accidents were due to human error and this is true in a sense but it’s not very helpful. It’s a bit like saying that falls are due to gravity.”

The CSB releases clips in commemoration of Dr Keltz

Remembering Dr Trevor Kletz, 1922 – 2013

Fellow process safety advocate, John Reynolds, expressed “sadness” over the passing of Dr Kletz. “Trevor Kletz spoke lots of good common sense which in reality should be easy to establish”, said Mr Reynolds.

“He leaves a legacy that perhaps cannot really be measured: how many lives did he actually save through the actions carried out based on his recommendations and ideas?”

In a remarkable career spanning almost 70 years, we now remember Trevor Kletz, a true pioneer of process safety and inherently safer design.

Whilst we mourn his passing, we do so with a happy and thankful heart as there is little doubt that Dr Kletz’s legacy and life’s work lives on in the safety systems he so passionately created.

Safety never sleeps Dr Kletz, but now you can.

Related reading:
Contact us

Let’s get
learning together!

0331 6300 626

Lines open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, GMT

Karon Reynolds

Prefer to talk by email?

Contact us by email

Send a message to
or fill in the form and a member of our safety team is standing by to help.

- John Reynolds