Causes of accidents at petrochemical plants in developed and developing countries are reviewed. In several studies, many serious accidents have primarily been attributed to operator error. However, further investigations have revealed that a majority of these incidents were caused by a combination of many factors, most notably the lack of human and organizational factors considerations. It is concluded that system accidents are the result of the way the system parts — engineered and human — fit together and interact On many occasions, the error and the resultant failures are both the attribute and the effect of a multitude of factors such as bad workstation and workplace designs, complicated operational processes, unbalanced workload, unsafe conditions, faulty maintenance, disproportionate attention to production, ineffective training, lack of motivation and experiential knowledge, non-responsive managerial systems, poor planning, non-adaptive organizational structures, rigid job-based pay systems, haphazard response systems, and sudden environmental disturbances. Recommendations for improving safety at the design and operating stages of petrochemical plants in developed and (additional recommendations for) developing countries are provided.

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