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Lee N. Vanden Heuvel

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Mr. Lee N. Vanden Heuvel is the Senior Manager of Incident Investigations and Root Cause Services and a Senior Risk/Reliability Engineer for ABS Consulting. He has more than 25 years of experience in plant operations and analysis.

Mr. Vanden Heuvel is ABS Consulting’s lead for incident investigation/root cause analysis supports services, training, and software support. He has assisted organizations in many different industries with the development and implementation of incident investigation and root cause analysis (RCA) programs. He has also led and participated in investigations in many types of industries, including chemical, healthcare, manufacturing, upstream/downstream petrochemical, machining, pharmaceuticals, utilities, construction, waste disposal, nuclear power, and food processing. He is a co-author of Guidelines for the Investigation of Chemical Process Incidents, Second Edition, Guidelines for Risk Based Process Safety, and Conduct of Operations and Operational Discipline (all published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' Center for Chemical Process Safety), and the Root Cause Analysis Handbook, Third Edition and Reliability Management (both published by Rothstein Associates Inc.). He is also the lead developer of ABS Consulting's RCA software package with partner and EXP.

Mr. Vanden Heuvel was previously the project manager and lead analyst for a large quantitative risk assessment program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He also worked for eight years at a nuclear power plant in operations, engineering support, and training.

His current responsibilities are in the areas of RCAs, incident investigations, human factors, organizational culture improvement, procedures, safety analyses, and economic/decision analyses. He is the prime developer of ABS Consulting's Root Cause Analysis and Incident Investigation course and has taught RCA techniques to over 4,000 individuals.


Selected Investigations


Industry Type

Brief Description

Explosion leading to three fatalities

Offshore Drilling

While performing welding activities, an explosion occurred that resulted in propelling three tanks off the platform and killing three workers. Hot work permit issues and contractor oversight were major issues identified. ABS Consulting performed evidence collection, root cause analysis, fire and explosion modeling, coordinated laboratory analyses, and interfaced with BSEE and legal counsel during the investigation.

Explosion at Chemical Process Facility

Chemical Processing

An explosion occurred while switching from one train of equipment to another. Valve leakage ignited, resulting in an explosion and a small fire. Several operators were injured and the incident resulted in an extended shutdown. ABS Consulting controlled access to the incident scene, identified and collected evidence from the incident scene, managed the storage and organization of the evidence yard, and coordinated equipment testing.

Near-miss Electrocution

Electric Utility

During construction operations, a contract worker climbed onto an energized high-voltage transformer. An HSE professional noticed the worker was in a prohibited area before the contractor was electrocuted.

Stack Failure

Chemical Processing

A 200' steel stack fell onto the bag house. The stack had rapidly corroded over a period of two years because of problems with the materials of construction and operational problems that lead to excessive chlorides in the stack plume. The investigation involved causal analysis and metallurgical analysis issues.

Crane Collapse During Movement of Heavy Load

Electric Utility

During a heavy lift using a specially designed crane for the task, the crane collapsed resulting in significant damage to the structure and crane. ABS Consulting’s role was in structural/building assessment and initial evidence collection.

Trending Analysis of Serious Injuries

Electric Utility

A review of several years of serious injury data was performed to identify recurring issues and corrective actions.

Slip Joint Failure

Offshore Drilling

Failure of a slip joint during retrieval of the lower marine riser package. The failure resulted in extended downtime.

Partial Collapse of a Flare Tower


Excessive flow of ethylene to a flare tower combined with mechanical piping failures caused a partial collapse of the flare tower. Failures in maintenance activities and long-term corrosion of an inaccessible portion of the piping were the primary causes.

Gas Release from a Sewer System

Paper Mill

An unanticipated combination of materials in a sewer system resulted in the generation of toxic gasses. The release of the gasses resulted in a number of injuries and fatalities.



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