March 28, 2012

Confined space and gas detectors

Thanks to S.Selvam for sending news about an incident where the gas detector used for confined space tests was out of calibration.Read about the incident in this link.
 Another article by Concept Controls mentions the following:
'There has never been a consensus among manufacturers regarding how frequently confined space gas detectors need to be calibrated. However, manufacturers do agree that the safest and most conservative approach is to verify the
performance of the instrument by exposing it to known concentration test gas before each day’s use. This functional “bump test” is very simple and takes only a few seconds to accomplish. It is not necessary to make a calibration adjustment unless the readings are found to be inaccurate. The regulatory standards that govern confined space entry
procedures are in agreement with this approach'.

Read the article in this link.

Contribute to the surviving victims of Bhopal by buying my book "Practical Process Safety Management"

March 26, 2012

Lessons to learn from safety report of Railways

The Indian railways high powered committee on rail safety has published its report. There are two recommendations in the report which also apply to process safety management in India. I am quoting from the report: "There is no practice of independent safety regulation by an independent agency separate from operations. The Railway Board has the unique distinction of being the rule maker, operator and the regulator, all wrapped into one. Commissioners of Railway Safety though considered to be the safety watchdogs have negligible role at the operational level. Compliance of safety standards set by Railways for themselves are often flouted for operational exigencies. The Committee has recommended a statutory Railway Safety Authority (RSA) and a safety architecture which is powerful enough to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Indian Railways without detaching safety with the railway operations. The Committee has also recommended measures to strengthen the present Railway Safety Commission to undertake meaningful regulatory inspections" IR suffers from ‘IMPLEMENTATION BUG’. Implementation of accepted recommendations of the previous safety committees has been a major issue. The Committee has recommended an empowered group of officers in Railway Board to pilot the implementation of the recommendations in a time bound manner with full funding. The Committee has also recommended the review of implementation of recommendations by the new statutory outfit of Railway Safety Authority under Government of India. In India, we need to make PSM mandatory and bring an independant investigating authority like the CSB. Also, the recommendations of safety audits need to be followed up. Read the full report in this link.

March 20, 2012

Capacitor failure incident

An interesting incident of a capacitor failure aboard a ship is reported.
Chemical plants use capacitor banks to improve power factor and there are lessons to learn from this incident.
Read about the incident in this link.

March 18, 2012

Fire in Chemical Tanker

A fire has been reported in a chemical tanker in Mumbai. It appears that toluene was unloaded and "stripping" operations were on when the fire occurred.
Read about it in this link.
UPDATE: An explosion has occurred in the same vessel reportedly injuring 7 petrsonnel, one critically. Read about it in this link.

Contribute to the surviving victims of Bhopal by buying my book "Practical Process Safety Management"

Murphy's technology laws

I came across some interesting technology laws from Murphy! The best I liked were:
  1. "The degree of technical competence is inversely proportional to the level of management.
  2. Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
  3. Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand". 
No harm intended to anyone......but it is of relevance to PSM today!!!!
Read many good ones in this link

March 16, 2012

Modifications and HAZOP's

The Management of change element of PSM requires that a PHA be carried out when carrying out modifications. The problem I see in many companies is the lack of continuity of a PHA team due to resignations and retirements. However many checklists and procedure we write, a good PHA depends on the skills of the team leader. With people moving in and out as the PHA chair, the PHA study suffers. No PHA software can replace the skills of a trained PHA facilitator. Whenever a PHA facilitator is changed, go through your facilities management of organizational change procedures and ensure that the requirements of a PHA facilitator are met.

March 15, 2012

Update on China pesticide factory explosion

Further to my earlier post on an explosion in a pesticide factory in China, a newspaper report indicates the following:
"The investigation found that a heat transfer oil spill under one of the three chemical reactors inside the factory caused a fire that heated the ammonium nitrate and guanidine nitrate in the reactor. Both compounds are used to make explosives and explode at high temperatures.
This caused one reactor to explode, triggering a second, massively destructive blast in the plant. "The blast revealed severe problems with the production processes at the Keeper Chemical factory," according to the investigation statement.
The factory was poorly equipped, had low safety standards, and most procedures require human labor, according to the statement. Further, the factory altered the raw materials and the heat transfer oil system without assessing the risk. In addition, the workers were unqualified. Most of them, including the head of the workshop, were middle school graduates without education in chemical production. "The workers had low qualifications for dealing with emergencies and did not meet the requirements for chemical factory production," the statement said".

Read the report in this link.

March 14, 2012

More confined space accidents

"A plumber was attempting to warm a confined space in which he intended to work. He placed his lighted cutting torch in the vaulted area and closed the opening. When he returned to the vault, he noticed that the torch was no longer lit and, after entering the vault, attempted to relight the torch. The torch had used up the available oxygen in the space, causing it to extinguish, and filled the space with acetylene. When the plumber reopened the space, oxygen was again introduced and the ignition caused the acetylene vapors to ignite. The plumber was blown out the opening and burned over 65% of his body. He died about a week later."
Read about this accident and 11 other confined space accidents in this link

March 12, 2012

Accidents in batch processes

See this link for few accidents connected with static electricity and reactivity in batch processes. There are lessons to learn.

March 9, 2012

Rupture of a rubber lined vessel

A rubber lined vessel was taken out of service to replace the rubber lining. The vessel was taken to the rubber lining works and it was heated with external propane torches after blanking off all openings. Workers heard a whistling noise and ran way. A few moments later the vessel exploded. Heating the vessel externally caused the vessel to over pressurize and rupture. Read the case study in this link.

March 6, 2012

On line leak sealing

Sorry, the previous post on online leak sealing had a bad link....
Recently, I had met a senior colleague of mine called Mr S.Raghavachari after a gap of 20 years. While reminiscing about the "good old days", I remembered that he had written about online leak sealing. I mentioned about my blog and he promptly sent his article on the subject to share with readers.I thank him for sending the article.
Online leak sealing is effective if all hazards are evaluated. There have been numerous accidents during on line leak sealing, mainly due to the mushrooming of fly by night operators. Be careful while choosing your on line leak sealing contractor. Ensure he has the proper technical background and support.
 You can read Mr Raghavachari's article in this link.

March 4, 2012

Deadly explosion in pesticides factory

An explosion has taken place in a pesticide factory in China. A news article mentions that "According to the preliminary investigation, the major substance that caused the blast was guanidine nitrate, a combustion-supporting chemical that can irritate the eyes, skin and upper respiratory system. The specific cause of the accident is still under investigation"
Read about the accident and see photo of the blast zone in this link.

March 2, 2012

Don't make a mockery of a mock drill

The recent unfortunate death of a young woman  volunteer in a mock drill at Bangalore, speaks volumes of the state of emergency preparedness. In many chemical plants, mock drills are conducted by informing everyone about the timing of the drill. What is the purpose of this if you want to test your real emergency preparedness? In 1995 I attended an advanced firefighters and rescue training at Dubai where not only were we made to fight live natural gas fires generated in a natural gas skid mounted mock plant ( we had to isolate the supply of natural gas) but also made to search for victims inside buildings. Smoke bombs were placed inside the buildings to disorient us, along with strobe lights that were flashing ( also to disorient us). The instructors place a lot of emphasis on the safety of the firefighters and rescue team. Recently I read an article about a new training tool for firefighters in this link.
Always be prepared and don't make a mockery of a mock drill.

March 1, 2012

Silo collapse in fertilizer factory

A silo structure collapse in a fertiliser factory has led to injuries to 15 people.The cause of the incident is under investigation. Ensure that all structures (both civil and structural) are inspected and maintained properly. Sometimes, I have observed fertiliser material covering many structures. What you don't see cannot be inspected. Another article Mentions that police have registered criminal cases against the management.
See the video of the collapsed structure in this link
Read the article in this link.

Meetings and Process Safety

Nowadays meetings are the order of the day. Either the plant manager is coming from a meeting or going to one! Net result - plant visits by the plant manager are rare. Process safety needs to be managed by look,listen and feel technique - look at the plant, listen to your shift crew and feel the pulse of what is going on at the plant level! A newspaper report suggests that attending meetings makes one brain dead. Plant Managers - Beware!!!
Read the news article in this link