Cartoons Will Stop Refinery Disasters

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It turns out cartoons can be educational in the petrochemical oil patch, where telephone book-size safety reports can put a guy in a hardhat to sleep.

The independent federal agency that looks into industrial chemical accidents says its computer-animated safety videos are a hot item for plant officials trying to avoid deadly (and litigation-producing) accidents.

We're not sure if an aversion to the act of reading or a deficit in attention span is at play here, but cartoons (or computer animated graphics, if you prefer) apparently work when the written word falls short.

After all, in this day and age, who wants to read when you can watch?

"Most people are not going to read an 800-page report," says a process safety official with DuPont, who notes the videos produced by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) "really get people's attention."

Paying attention is good when dealing with things that go kablooey, so we're completely on board with cartoons or whatever else will keep people from getting killed.

Part of the value of the videos is to communicate process hazards to new engineers and other employees, most of whom have never experienced a major accident, the DuPont safety official said.

The safety videos have been viewed more than one million times over the Internet and the CSB has its own channel on YouTube.

They produced one after the 2005 British Petroleum explosion in Texas City that killed 15, and the CSB continues an investigation into an an explosion in January that killed another worker.

-- Steve Olafson

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