International Symposium celebrates 20 years of advocating for chemical safety

Getting a university to house the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center was a hard sell 20 years ago, but founders say the hundreds who attended the center’s annual symposium Tuesday are proof that their mission is catching on.

More than 640 academics and industry engineers will cycle through the Hilton College Station for the center’s International Symposium before Thursday is over. Through case studies and speakers, the annual event brings together experts to talk about chemical safety.

As director Sam Mannan summed it up, the purpose of the center and symposium is “to make people believers.”

The center was founded by T. Michael O’Connor in honor of his wife, who died in a 1989 chemical plant explosion in Pasadena. Since her death, leaders of the center can point to other tragedies that could have been avoided if process safety was a more integral part of engineering education.