Chemicals play a key role in today’s high-tech world. The chemical industry is linked to every technologically advanced industry, and only a handful of the goods and services we enjoy on a daily basis would exist without essential chemical products. Furthermore, chemicals are a big business in Texas; where the state’s chemical complex is the largest in the world. The industry provides jobs for more than 85,000 Texans, and the state’s chemical products are shipped worldwide at a value of $15 billion dollars annually.The use of chemicals is a two-edged sword. Safe use creates a healthier economy and a higher standard of living. Unsafe use threatens our lives, our businesses and ultimately our world. For this reason, working and living safely with chemicals are the ultimate focus of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.

The Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center was established in 1995 in memory of Mary Kay O’Connor, an Operations Superintendent killed in an explosion on October 23, 1989 at the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Pasadena, TX. Mary Kay O’Connor graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering and received a MBA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

In 1997, Dr. Sam Mannan, because of his reputation as a world-renowned expert in process safety, was appointed Director of the center. The center’s mission is to promote safety as second nature in industry around the world with goals to prevent future incidents. In addition, the Center develops safer processes, equipment, procedures and management strategies to minimize losses within the processing industry. However, the center realizes that it is necessary to advance process safety technologies in order to keep the industry competitive. Other functions of the center include that it serves all stakeholders, provides a common forum, and develops programs and activities that will forever change the paradigm of process safety. The funding for the center comes from a combination of the endowment, consortium funding, and contract projects.