December 27, 2011

Fatality at ammunition factory

A fatal accident at an ammunition factory has even experts "baffled". The article mentions "Mule, a permanent employee, was described as a highly skilled worker. The incident happened around 2.10 pm when he was about to go for lunch. AFK officials said there was a spark and suddenly Mule was on fire. Showing presence of mind, Mule sprinted towards a water tank and doused the fire. Otherwise, the fire could have spread causing much damage, said some of the employees". Maybe static electricity was the cause??
Read the article in this link
Read another article in this link

December 23, 2011

The dangers of aerosol cans

Yesterday I had been to the birthday party of my friend's eight year old daughter. The kids were playing with an aerosol can which generated foam thread, when pressed. None of the kids were aware of the hazards of the aerosol can and that the gas used as a propellant was flammable! What does this have to do with process safety? We also use aerosol cans for dye checking or lubricating/removing rust etc. Read the warnings on the can before you use them. Propane and butane are often used as propellants and the escaping gas can catch fire if a source of ignition is present. Also do not dispose empty aerosol cans in a fire. They can explode.
Thanks to R.Sriram for sending these tips on aerosol cans:
  • Aerosols contain a product and a propellant that are packed under pressure.  
  • Many people use aerosols without realizing some of the potential hazards associated with them. 
  • Oven cleaners, tile cleaners, pesticides, disinfectants, hair sprays, room deodorizers, paints, and furniture polishes are examples of aerosol products. 
  • When the nozzle of an aerosol is pressed, the product and propellant are released from the container in a fine mist. The actual product propelled by the aerosol, such as some oven cleaners, can be corrosive, flammable, or poisonous. Acute symptoms of aerosol exposure include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, throat irritation, and skin rash. 
  • A misdirected spray can cause eye injury and chemical burns. 
  • Never leave or place an aerosol can near high heat sources, such as a heater, direct sunlight, or fire. 
  • Keep aerosol cans away from children and pets. 
  • Never puncture or subject an aerosol can to sharp impact; a sudden puncture may cause an explosion. 
  • Dispose the Aerosols in a proper way.

December 21, 2011

A water tank kills

A supervisor was killed when he attempted to rescue his fellow worker who had collapsed after entering an empty water tank. Investigation is on to determine what was present inside the water tank. If a water tank can kill, just imagine the hazards you face when you enter a confined space in a chemical factory. Follow your company procedures strictly and don't take any confined space for granted. Read the article about the water tank fatality in this link.

December 20, 2011

Two killed in pharma factory fire near Hyderabad

A news article mentions that a fire in a pharma factory at Patancheru has killed two people. The article mentions that
"According to police, the fire engulfed the factory after a reactor exploded due to an electrical short-circuit. The fire broke out in the evening, and spread to neighboring factories. Fire-fighting personnel had to battle for five hours to control the flames.This is the second such accident in three days. Four workers of a chemical factory were killed in a reactor blast at Polepalli Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Jadcherla in Mahabubnagar district near Hyderabad last Friday".
Read the article in this link
See a photo in this link.

December 19, 2011

The dangers of sewers

Two people were reportedly killed in a factory in Chennai when they entered a sewage tank that was not opened for a long time. Be careful of sewers in your factory and residential colonies. Entry should be done only with proper confined space entry permits

The dangers of water hammer

Many of you would have heard the "banging" noise that a water hammer produces inside a pipeline. We also do not expect a pipeline to be destroyed by water hammer. But it happens. An article by Gregg Basnight mentions the following:
"Contrary to old operating practices to drain and warm up steam lines, "Cracking Open" valves in lines to bleed condensate under steam pressure is NOT safe and has resulted in numerous reported water hammer fatalities.Before admitting steam to any line, the condensate must be removed. Condensate should be assumed to be in all low points and dead legs until proven otherwise by verification of drain or steam trap position and operation. Pressurized dead legs without functioning traps or periodic manual blowdowns will have condensate present. The affected section of piping should be isolated, depressurized and drained before restoring steam to the system".
Read the full article in this link.

December 17, 2011

Give importance to sight glasses

30 years ago, in the ammonia plant where I worked, the sight glass of a high pressure (200 Kg/cm2) ammonia separator leaked during start up. Luckily we managed to shut the plant down safely with no injury to anyone. The root cause was the wrong torquing procedure used. A good article about sight glasses mentions the following:

"Proper design, installation and maintenance of sight glasses are the keys to their safe and effective use....a sight glass almost always fails in tension rather than compression. This is similar to the case for concrete, because glass is not ductile and cannot stretch like metal. Therefore, tiny imperfections in a sight glass window can create stress concentrations, which are potential failure points. Just the touch of a finger on the window can reduce the tensile strength of a virgin glass element by three orders of magnitude from one million to 1000psi. Although design and manufacturing flaws are important, most sight glasses fail due to improper installation. Mechanical stress is a frequent cause, arising from the over-tightening or uneven torquing of bolts that generate bending loads on the glass. When an existing sight glass window is replaced, trapped debris may become a problem if old gaskets have baked onto the flanges. While this may seem trivial, it is actually very dangerous. Even small contaminant particles or build-up might be enough to scratch, pit or bend the new glass during installation".

December 14, 2011

Laser scanning - a tool for Management of change and Asset Integrity

The most difficult elements to implement in a PSM program are management of change and asset integrity simply because of the large quantity of data involved and less time available. I was reading an interesting concept of laser scanning in an article in Power magazine. It mentions the following:
"Laser scanning also provides a dimensionally accurate representation of the plant and all its equipment as well as a photographic quality visual representation. The laser scan database can be integrated with a variety of plant design applications to provide comprehensive facility management support".
The concept will be very useful for PHA teams who are analysing changes/modifications as they can virtually "see" the proposed modification. It is also an useful tool for managing your asset integrity as another article mentions.
Read the article on laser scanning in this link
Read the article on Virtual asset integrity management in this link.

December 11, 2011

US Unions briefing on Process Safety

The USW union of the US has briefed the US Congress about health and safety problems in the oil industry. As per a news article,"USW Health and Safety Specialist Kim Nibarger outlined five fatal flaws at the briefing on where the oil industry needs to improve its health and safety record: process safety, mechanical integrity, management of change, incident investigation and control room alarms and instrumentation. “When things go bad in a refinery, they go really bad and people die,” he told the briefing. “Focusing on personal safety—the wearing of hard hats and safety glasses, slips, trips and falls—says nothing about how safe a refinery is for workers and the surrounding community. BP had a low personal injury rate at its refineries, but the 2005 explosion and fire at its Texas City plant showed it failed miserably in terms of process safety. Fifteen people were killed and 170 were injured in the 2005 accident as a result of this failure. “The oil companies are playing Russian roulette with their equipment,” Nibarger said. “They are doing quick, stopgap fixes, like placing clamps on pipes instead of replacing the pipe. They’re extending the time between unit shutdowns when all the equipment is checked. When there is a shutdown they’re not always repairing or replacing critical equipment. When they do repair equipment they’re not bringing it up to current RAGAGEP (Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices) standards.”
If the above sound familiar to you, take a hard look at your PSM program!
Read the full article in this link.

December 9, 2011

Adding too much chemical causes an incident

A news report mentions an incident where an orange gas cloud leaked from a manufacturing facility for making ferric sulphate. Apparently, too much nitric acid was added to a batch, resulting in a violent reaction that produced excess amounts of nitrogen dioxide that escaped from the reactor into the air.Nitrogen dioxide is a reddish brown gas and is highly toxic if inhaled and is also corrosive.
Ensure that you have proper controls over addition of chemicals, especially if adding an excess of one chemical can trigger something unwanted. Engineering controls are the best to avoid such mishaps. Depending only on an SOP in such situations may cause an an incident to happen.
Read the article in this link.

December 7, 2011

Boiler burst kills 4

A boiler of a dyeing unit  burst on Tuesday, killing four persons and injuring 20 others on Tuesday. Inquiries are on to find out the reason for the blast. An official said that the safety valve failed release in time, leading to pressure building up inside the boiler.Read about it in this link.

December 6, 2011

A change in piping material may overlook something else!

A plant decided to change its sulphuric acid piping from Cast Iron to SS. However, they decided to conduct piping design analysis as per code requirement.The analysis found out that design did not adequately consider the difference in cross-sectional thickness between Cast Iron and SS (Cast iron is very thick compared to stainless steel). Also, the heat transfer rates of CI and SS differ. The piping expert redesigned the piping system to account for the thinner cross-section and thermal expansion properties of stainless steel and thus avoided premature failure. 
Read the article in this link.

December 4, 2011

Explosion in sulphuric acid tank

An explosion in a sulphuric acid tank has injured four personnel in Japan. There is the danger of presence of hydrogen in sulphuric acid tanks and when you do hot work be aware of the simple precautions like gas testing etc.
Read about the accident in this link. The Chemical Safety Board had earlier brought out a safety bulletin on the Dangers of Hot work, which is worth reading for every plant operation, maintenance and safety personnel. Read it in this link.

December 2, 2011

Fire in Pharma Plant

A fire in the vacuum dryer area of a pharma plant has reportedly seriously injured three people. As per Company press release, it states "There was a fire incident in a powder processing area at early hours on Nov 28,2011, at unit 11 which is located at Pydibhimavaram, Srikakulam near Vizag, A.P. Three persons were injured and they were taken to the hospital. The powder processing area is isolated from the intermediate block. There was no impact to the operations as well as to the assets".
Another news report indicates that the fire was caused by an explosion due to high pressure in the vacuum dryer.
Read the news reports in these links
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

December 1, 2011

Remembering Bhopal............

Please spend December 2nd/3rd as “Process Safety Day” in your organisation. Educate your personnel on the Bhopal Gas tragedy and its lessons. 27 years ago, on the night on December 2nd/3rd, 1984, on a wintry night in Bhopal, thousands of men, women and children died an excruciating death when MIC leaked from the Union Carbide factory. The survivors and the next generation children born to those exposed to the gas still are suffering from the effects of the gas. Bhopal is an ongoing tragedy and should never be forgotten. The Bhopal gas disaster comprises actually of three disasters - the first was the actual incident, the second was the inadequate compensation received and the third is the ongoing legacy of genetic defects and effects of the hazardous waste that has seeped into the ground water. Every plant operating, maintenance and safety personnel must never forget the lessons of Bhopal. They are still relevant today:
1. Do not cut costs without looking at the effects on process safety
2. Maintain all your layers of defense including asset integrity
3. Continually ensure that competency of personnel operating and maintaining plants are updated and current
4. Be prepared for the worst case scenario.
5. Understand the risks and measures to eliminate / reduce or control them
6. Learn from your past incidents. Those who do not learn are condemned to repeat the incidents.
7. Pay heed to your process safety management system audit reports

As you are aware, this blog is also dedicated to the surviving victims of Bhopal and for my regular subscribers, I appeal to you to buy my book "Practical Process Safety Management", the proceeds from which are donated to the surviving victims of Bhopal.Contact me at for buying the book.

See a presentation on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy by Vijita S Aggarwal, Associate Professor, University School of Management Studies,GGS Indraprastha University,Delhi, India in this link.
Read my older post comparing the Bhopal and the BP incident of 2005 in this link
Read the then Police Chief’s account of the tragedy in this link.