For University of Utah chemical engineering adjunct professor Daniel Crowl, there is nothing more critical to a student’s education in his department than understanding the potentially hazards of chemicals and chemical plant operations.

Crowl has been teaching process safety to U students, a subject that has dominated most of his academic career and led to co-authoring the definitive textbook on the subject, Chemical Process Safety, Fundamentals with Applications, which is the most-used on this topic in university classrooms.

Crowl earned his doctorate in chemical engineering in 1975 from the University of Illinois and began his academic career teaching in the chemical engineering department at Wayne State University in Detroit. But in 1985, he was working on a summer engineering job at German chemical company, BASF Corp., near Detroit when he was introduced to process safety.

“During that summer experience, I realized that people in industry needed to spend a lot of their time on process safety,” he said about why he became interested in it. “There was a major deficiency in chemical engineering education on process safety. So my BASF associate and I decided to work on educational materials. We saw a hole in the curriculum that needed to be filled.”

While chemical plants remain safer than other industry workplaces, according to Crowl, workers still come into everyday contact with chemicals that can be toxic, flammable or explosive if not handled with care. Many chemical companies, for example, use propylene, a raw material used to create other chemicals that is flammable. Plastic manufacturers use large amounts of vinyl chloride, which is both flammable and toxic. Plant accidents have often led to fires, explosions or the release of toxic fumes.

Crowl’s chemical process safety course at the U covers how to characterize toxic, flammable and reactive chemicals. It also focuses on prevention measures including risk assessment, safeguards, and how to identify hazards. His junior-level, three-credit-hour course is a requirement for a chemical engineering bachelor’s degree.

“When it comes to teaching safety culture, the earlier you teach it to students, the easier it is,” he said about why it’s important to teach students safety before they are hired. “Otherwise, it will be more difficult for industry to teach it themselves.”

During his career, Crowl has been a consultant for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Center for Chemical Process Safety, was named the Herbert H. Dow Endowed Chair in Chemical Process Safety at the Michigan Technological University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and was named a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as well as the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety.

Thanks to his son, who lives and works in Salt Lake City, Crowl and his wife frequently visited Utah and fell in love with its people and scenic beauty. After Crowl retired in 2015, they moved to the Salt Lake area, and Crowl got a job in the U’s Department of Chemical Engineering. He also is working on the fourth edition of his textbook with co-author J. F. Louvar and is conducting workshops and lecturing around the world on chemical process safety.