Chemstore, The Hazardous Materials Expert, is encouraging businesses large and small to review their corrosive storage requirements to ensure that they are keeping staff and members of the public safe and Chemstore has created a corrosives storage checklist to help.
The advice comes in light of an increasing number of public acid attacks which serve as a reminder of the devastating impact corrosive substances can have on human health.
Corrosives and their vapours can cause devastating damage to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and digestive tract
As news reports have highlighted, corrosives and their vapours can cause devastating damage to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and digestive tract and some corrosives can even eat through metal. Controlling access to these substances and storing them correctly in line with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 is therefore essential but Chemstore finds it is a hazard that is easily overlooked, often because people don’t realise they are dealing with corrosive substances in the first place.
Mike Brodie, Chemstore UK managing director explains: “There is a common myth, as quoted by the HSE in its brief guide to COSHH, that companies don’t think they have any hazardous substances in their workplace when on closer inspection this is rarely the case.
People think that because they have been supplied with a substance it must be safe but this is simply not true
“There is an increasing drive to control public access to corrosives with retailers becoming more vigilant and measures such as banning cash purchases of acid being proposed but there has been less attention given to the fact that corrosive substances are still easily ac-cessible in many workplaces. Consequently we are urging companies to consider whether this is an area that needs review.”
Mike adds: “Another common myth is that people think that because they have been supplied with a substance it must be safe. This is simply not true yet this attitude means that many companies and consequently workers remain oblivious to the hazards of some of the substances they work with. At the most extreme we have seen hydrofluoric acid ,which is used for glass etching, metal cleaning and electronics manufacturing and can be fatal, stored in boxes on factory floors.”
The good news is that meeting your obligations in this area is often easier than people think. Chemstore has come up with a simple checklist which can be downloaded here to help businesses review their procedures and signpost them in the right direction for further information.
Chemstore is also hosting a Q&A video on some of the most commonly asked questions they receive about handling & storing corrosives so if you have any questions that you would like to see covered, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can also be submitted via the questions section on Chemstore’s website. There is no such thing as a silly question and no question too large or small – Chemstore will try and answer them all. Those asking questions can remain anonymous.
With over 15 years’ experience in the spill control and containment industry it never ceases to amaze me the amount of information that goes unnoticed. Safety data sheets are key to understanding/selecting the appropriate containment device.
Section 1: of an SDS sheet is the identification of the substance. It provides the product name, product use, possible supplier details and manufacturer contact details. It should also contain emergency telephone numbers.
If you are unsure of anything with the product why not contact the manufacturer?
Section 2: covers the Hazard Identification.
Section 2.1 of the SDS sheet gives the classification of the substance or mixture.
Acetone as an example:
2.2 Label element
Usually provided with the Global harmonised system (GHS) pictograms and in the case of Acetone:
Signal words, hazard classes and hazard statements such as:
Within the first two sections we have identified the following: –
The liquid itself is highly flammable as is the vapour, it can cause serious eye irritation and may cause drowsiness or dizziness.
It should be kept away from not just flames but also heat and if it does enter the eye this should be rinsed with water continuously.
I now need to find out further information for example the process that a business uses this liquid for. If we continue with acetone and suggest that Company X uses acetone on rags for cleaning metal parts (a widespread use of acetone due to its degreasing properties). I would ask the following questions and provide theoretical answers: –
If the company purchases 205L drums, they are usually delivered on a pallet and are handled multiple times before placing them by hand in their final storage location. This provides multiple opportunities for a spill to occur from over-handling. If the product is delivered securely on a pallet why not keep it on the pallet?
Section 7: When selecting the appropriate secondary containment device, section 7 of a Safety data sheet is a suitable place to start. The SDS sheet section 7.1 provides details on safe handling. When using Acetone as an example, precautions for safe handling include:
Section 7.2 Provides conditions for safe storage, including any incompatibilities
Using the Company X example, Acetone was stored and decanted/dispensed inside the shipping container, a cheap option but this commonly DOES NOT provide: –
Section 9: of the SDS sheet provides physical and chemical properties of the product. In our example case Acetone, we now know is flammable. There is potential in the shipping container for raised temperatures so in the first instance I would investigate the flash point.
A common misunderstanding in my experience occurs between flash point and auto ignition: –
Taking Acetone again as an example the Flashpoint and Autoignition temperatures are shown below:
This information provides us with the knowledge to understand the risks involved with company X’s processes onsite. Storing 205L drums in a shipping container, in the summer could easily reach 40 °C. The drums of acetone will produce sufficient vapour that could then be ignited. The shipping container had little to no ventilation which contributes to a build-up of vapour particularly during dispensing/decanting.
The container was also placed near a boundary fence which goes directly against HS(G)51 guidance:
Table 1 Minimum separation distances:
One solution to the storage of Acetone at Company X is to provide a Firevault (Fire Rated Store) product that will protect the Acetone in the event of a fire. The unit should either be well ventilated naturally, or provide forced extraction that removes any build up of vapour from the store and away from any external hazard. The fire rated store could also be temperature controlled to make sure the product is kept below the Flashpoint preventing any flammable vapour from being created (any electrical components are EX-rated appropriately). The distances are based on what is considered to be good practice and have been widely accepted by industry. Although these distances may not provide complete protection to people or structures from a fire in the flammable liquid storage area, they should allow time during a developing fire for people to evacuate to a place of safety. If these distances cannot be met then typically a Fire Rated storage solution would be required.
During a recent site visit I witnessed flammables stored next to a boundary fence in open racking.
On the particular day in question a maintenance company were patching up potholes on the road next to the boundary fence. In doing so they used a gas canister and what can only be described as a flame thrower!
What would happen if the vapour/boundary vegetation ignited on that day?
Do you know what processes take place outside of your boundary?
Think about smoking areas/policy, vandalism, even acts of God, for example lightening?
Why risk your business’s assets when all the information to protect it is at your fingertips?
Contact us today for a free site assessment and our expert assistance.Working Safely With Static
What is static?
Static electricity is, simply put, electricity that is stuck in a system with nowhere to go. Within a typical electrical circuit, the charge is contained within a closed loop and returns to the source after carrying out a specific task, powering your kettle or lighting your office for example.
Static is different in that it can accumulate, often unnoticed, on plant, containers or even personnel. Due to lack of awareness or complacency in the workplace this build-up of energy can result in devastating, yet entirely avoidable accidents.
The accumulation of electrostatic charge is caused by barriers between the static charge and its path to ‘true earth’. For example, electrostatic charge on steel drums can be prevented from being dissipated by the presence of protective coatings, rust, debris build up and even surface layers of the stored product. Static build up on personnel can be a result of wearing the wrong footwear, or the use of insulating gloves when handling product.
Electrostatic sparking is caused by the rapid ionisation of the atmosphere between two objects at different electrical potential. When this voltage reaches a critical level, ionisation occurs in the form of a spark.
If the atmosphere across the spark is between its upper and lower flammable limits, ignition of the atmosphere will occur, resulting in fire or explosion.
The dangers of static.
Possibly the most famous example of a disastrous electrostatic discharge is the Hindenburg ‘Airship’ explosion. According to a team of experts recently assigned to conclude what caused the vessel to explode on 6th May, 1937, determined the most likely cause was a build-up of electrostatic energy transferred to the airship by passing through highly charged thunderstorm clouds. The problem came about during landing, as the ground crew reached for the tie down ropes, a path was created for the charge to spark to ground as contact with the earth was made. This, in turn, ignited the Hydrogen gas used to fill the ship, resulting in the explosion that killed 36 passengers that day.
Manoa Laboratory 2016
A more recent example of disastrous electrostatic discharge includes an explosion in 2016 within the Manoa Laboratory at the University of Hawaii. Investigators noted that: –
“…serious deficiencies in the institution’s approach to laboratory safety contributed to a lapse in proper risk assessment and lack of a culture of safety that ultimately led to the accident”.
A research fellow, visiting the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory, was transferring a mix of flammable gases into a low pressure tank when the explosion occurred. The explosion seriously injured the lab technician, causing her to lose her arm. The University suffered an estimated $1,000,000 in damage to property and faces up to $115,500 in fines.
Initial investigations put the blame on an incorrectly specified pressure gauge that was not suitable for use with flammable gases, however further studies into the event placed the blame on static discharge within the tank.
It appears the explosion could have been avoided however by carrying out a more detailed risk assessment of the process. In fact, although the experiment had been carried out 10 or 11 times previously it was noted that the investigators discovered a number of ‘near misses’ that should have caused the process to be shut down and investigated further.
For example, a ‘cracking’ sound was reported during a similar experiment on another tank but the technician was advised to simply not use that equipment again. Equally of concern is that the technician had also reported receiving static shocks when touching the pressure vessel but was told not to worry about it.
Where it is likely to occur in the workplace?
It is always essential to consider static accumulation within workplace processes, but more so when these processes involve the creation of potentially explosive atmospheres. Such activities do not have to involve large quantities of flammables liquids or dusts. A few litres of flammable liquid, under the right circumstances can create the perfect conditions for an explosion throughout a workshop or laboratory. Common activities often include the collection of waste into larger drums/IBC’s for bulk disposal, or decanting of good product from larger drums into smaller containers for transfer into the workshop or laboratory.
During both processes a release of flammable vapour is often unavoidable. A static discharge at this time can easily result in a devastating explosion or fire.
Responsibility for these activities most likely rests with the operators, however due to the absence of a visible or tangible hazard, a lack of understanding or awareness can lead to complacency or honest mistakes and an electrostatic ignition.
As an example, a calculation can be made to show the energy of an electrostatic charge typically found on a metal drum containing liquid.
Example spark energy (joules) of a steel drum containing liquid = approx. 8.0 mJ
|Liquid / Gas||Minimum Ignition Energy|
It is clear to see that there is easily enough energy in commonly found activities to ignite a flammable atmosphere (within the explosive limits) of regularly used chemicals.
There are many articles and best practice guides available in the market. In the UK, the DSEAR – Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations requires that a thorough risk assessment is carried out by a competent person.
“…Where a dangerous substance is or is liable to be present at the workplace, the employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to his employees which arise from that substance. … [including] … the likelihood that ignition sources, including electrostatic discharges, will be present and become active and effective”
How we can solve the problem.
Firstly, Chemstore can supply an on site assessment of your processes and facilities. If necessary, we can carry out a full DSEAR Risk Assessment for you to address any concerns you have regarding your process and to help put a plan in place for safe practices going forward.
This can then be re-enforced with operator and staff training and awareness courses to improve knowledge of the risks and associated hazards.
We can also offer a range of grounding equipment, depending on the application, to ensure operators have the right equipment to carry out the tasks on site.
Preferably, such equipment should not only monitor the presence of a connection to true earth (thus ensuring and static can safely drain away) but should also alert the operator if this state changes and the system becomes potentially dangerous.
The operator can then shut down the process until the issue can be rectified.
For example, when transferring liquids to/from 200L metal drums – we would typically recommend using ‘pressure clamps’ capable of penetrating any surface barriers like rust, protective coatings usually present in such scenarios.
These clamps must be capable of achieving the (industrially accepted) contact resistance of 10 Ohms or less. Not only should they achieve this level of conductivity, but they should also be able to notify the operator that a good connection is ‘made’, or more importantly ‘not made’.
Please enquire here for more information on this range of active products
Although ‘active’ systems clearly offer a preferred level of risk mitigation, sites may (after careful risk assessment) elect to implement a more passive system that does not have ground status monitoring or feedback capability. In this case it is essential to understand the limitations of such a system, to ensure that a good connection has indeed been made and continues to be made during the process. The use of certified and approved Factory Mutual or ATEX equipment is essential to achieve this – which Chemstore can supply on request.
The expert guide to safe storage of hazardous materials in laboratories.
From speaking to our existing clients we repeatedly hear of uncertainty and lack of clear information and guidance on how to identify, quantify and alleviate the risks with hazardous materials in the workplace. Without accurate information we understand it makes it difficult to prepare for the risks and to be aware of what hazards are currently in your workplace.
With that in mind, we are here to enable you with the right information and tools to eliminate the risk.
The following guidance document will make it clear what steps you need to take to create a safe and compliant laboratory.
The use of hazardous and volatile materials is part of daily processes in the majority of labs in universities, research facilities and production plants worldwide. It is currently not feasible to avoid the use of hazardous materials and what is often neglected is unsafe storage of these materials. Improper storage of these materials creates a prominent risk to human life, the environment and the business itself.
Labs across all areas of industry that haven’t undergone an adequate hazardous material storage assessment exhibit common shortcomings. There is often no defined storage system which determines risks with each type of material present in the lab. Such facilities have the following unsafe storage systems and practices:
– Chemicals stored on lab worktops, benches and the floor
– Materials stored on structurally fragile shelves and above eye level.
– Not enough storage space for the hazardous material containers
– Unsafe containers used to store materials e.g. wooden cupboards
– Gas Cylinders located internally within a lab unnecessarily
– Flammables not stored in fire rated cabinets
– Excessive quantities of flammables stored internally within a lab
– Absence of inventory or stock management system for chemicals in the lab
Our team often find when meeting our clients on site that one common practice is forgotten in laboratories. There is often one designated area/cabinet or container for all hazardous materials to be stored internally. Flammables, Oxidisers, Toxic and Corrosive liquids to name a few will be stored together.
Incompatible chemicals need to be segregated according to the hazard classes of each material. This is as important as with an adequate segregation scheme adverse reactions between incompatible chemicals such as oxidisers and flammables can be avoided.
– When developing a segregation scheme for chemicals in the lab, your first point to check should be section 2 of the SDS sheets ‘ Hazards Identification ‘
– Ensure you have adequate space in your facility to allow for safe segregation and storage of each class of material.
– Some materials will have more than one hazard associated. In this case you should always identify the address the most prominent risk first.
e.g. Dimethlychlorosilane is both flammable and corrosive. In this case it would be best practice to address the flammable risk as a priority.
There is no doubt that the biggest area for concern our team always highlight with clients is the lack of awareness when storing flammable liquids internally. When carrying out a risk assessment of your laboratory and the hazardous liquids you are using and storing, you should immediately identify the flammable materials. Once you have documented an accurate list, you should then quantify in litres how much flammable materials you absolutely need to store internally in your laboratory.
It is now a legal requirement that flammables must be stored in safety storage cabinets that satisfy the requirements of EN 14470-1.
We would also like to reiterate that where possible the quantities of flammables be kept to a minimum.
Please watch the following video that will certainly portray how the negligent handling and storage of flammable liquids could have serious consequences. Risk is always present when handling and storing flammable liquids, so be the one to act and not react after it’s too late!
If you neglect the above safety procedures when handling and storing hazardous materials in your lab that you are exposing your employees, the public and the environment to untenable risks.
In order to create the safest possible environment in your laboratory the final step you need to take is to create an emergency response plan in the event an accident occurs.This plan should be carefully written and shared with all employees. All tier 1 organisations are legally required produce an emergency response plan to the local authorities as part of COMAH Regulations 2015.
Emergency response plans need to be prepared addressing all four areas above in detail including accident scenarios with the hazardous materials present in you laboratory. Once this emergency response plan has been drafted and approved by the certified body in your organisation, an open correspondence should be opened with the local emergency services and the Health & Safety authorities detailing this plan.
From gathering extensive feedback from our valued client base and extensive research carried out throughout our 23 years in business, we are constantly striving to provide our clients with the tools and knowledge to eliminate the risks associated with hazardous material storage in industry.
A key strength of Chemstore throughout its history has been anticipating and responding to the needs of our clients. Increasing the level of safety in your workplace is where our work begins. We will enable you to reduce risk, liability and downtime on your site. We will take your business beyond the legal requirements for health & safety and social responsibility in your organisation.Lessons learnt a year on following chemical spill at a St Andrews leisure centre.
A leisure centre was evacuated in St Andrews in Scotland last August following a chemical spill. 19 people were taken to hospital following the spill. The casualties were brought to hospital due to breathing difficulties. Three fire engines and 15 ambulance service vehicles were called to East Sands leisure centre in St Andrews, Fife. The Guardian reported that “Victims said they had seen clouds of gas and smelt a strong odour that made them cough and their eyes sting. The leak was reported to be sodium hypochlorite, a chemical compound used to make bleach, though witnesses said they believed it to be chlorine.” Both chemicals pose a very real risk to human health with inhalation of enough quantities being linked with serious respiratory problems. Almost a year has passed since this incident and the HSE have completed an investigation on the incident and have recently ordered for a number of safety improvements to be made.
The incident at East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews left five children and 14 adults suffering breathing problems and requiring immediate medical treatment on August of last year. The HSE investigation has also highlighted several breaches of health and safety law, although thankfully steps of mitigation have now been taken to reduce the risk of such an incident happening again.
Investigators from the HSE initially stated that the incident involved the uncontrolled release of the chemical sodium hypochlorite from the pool’s storage tank, but after further investigations the HSE have discovered more about how exactly this leak happened. According to the HSE report the design of the tank was “unsuitable” because it did not have “sufficient strength” for the loads which were applied to it. The HSE report also stated how the support structure for the tank was not suitable and as a result lead to a “more rapid failure.” The Courier reads that the HSE report described how “White crystalline deposits below the tank indicate that the tank was likely to have leaked for a long time prior to failure and this could have been identified during routine examination.” One other issue that was brought up by the HSE was that the bund which was surrounding the tank was in poor condition and was not capable of holding large quantities of chemicals.
Following instruction from the HSE, swift action has been taken and Fife council have installed a different chlorination system at all of its swimming pools to ensure that there is no repeat of such an incident. Councillor Tim Brett was pleased to say that lessons have been learnt following this event. Scotsman news reported that Tim Brett said “this was a major incident which caused significant concern to all those involved in it at the time – fortunately no-one was seriously injured. I’m pleased to say the lessons learned both in managing the incident and on changing the chlorination system at the pool have been implemented.”
Hazardous materials pose risks to even the most family friendly environments. Highly corrosive liquids used to treat and clean swimming pools such as sodium hypochlorite and other pool cleaning chemicals when used and stored in dangerous quantities can be lethal. It has to be the responsibility of both management and Health & Safety officials to instruct and ensure these chemicals are:
For any advice you have regarding hazardous materials in the workplace don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts today.BREXIT – What it could mean for industry regulations & workplace health & safety.
With so much uncertainty regarding the historic vote last Thursday 23/06/2016 when the people of the UK decided it was time to opt out of the European Union. A Prominent member since 1975 but much discontent was shared by the 17,410,742 (BBC 2016) people who decided it was time for some major change.
In the aftermath of the EU referendum much has been speculated, there has been some contrasting projections made by experts as to how this decision will affect all areas of the economy, not just in the UK but across the globe.
Here at Chemstore, we have tried to investigate what this historic decision will mean for industry, regulations relating to hazardous materials & workplace health & safety.
“Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements” (www.lisbon-treaty.org)
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been strongly debated over the last few days, which is the article prescribed as procedure for any member state who wants to leave the EU. Since this article has not been undertaken before, it will be a new process for both sides EU & UK.
The article is a process prescribed over a two year period whereby the UK will negotiate terms with how it will leave the EU and the terms of trade between both the UK & EU going forward. It is still unclear as to how this will influence regulations relating to Health & Safety in the UK. Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs with IOSH has stated “Post-Brexit, the UK has now less influence over EU law. Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health & safety system which includes laws from EU directives because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews” (www.iosh.co.uk June 2016)
As article 50 is yet to be enacted by the UK as David Cameron has urged patience but reports today suggest this has aggravated other EU leaders as the European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has urged the UK to “clarify its position” as soon as possible (www.bbc.co.uk 28/06/2016)
Health & Safety Legislation – what will change?
As the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU have yet to begin and as described above will take at least two years to be agreed and enacted, it seems at this point and time that very little will change in short term up to 2018 as a minimum. The main problem is that EU & UK regulations and legislation have become very much intertwined and it’s hard to see how much will change regarding how the UK governs Health & Safety as the current system is working.
The Health & Safety Commission (HSC) which was founded upon the creation of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 “HASAWA” which precluded the UK’s entry into the EU which is the primary piece of UK health & safety legislation. It places the famous emphasis phrase to ensure “as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work” of all employees in the workplace.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) was created and brought into law in 1988 in the UK but since has been revised to adhere to European Legislation. Listed below are a selection of EU directives have been included in the latest revision of the COSHH regulations 2002 which highlight how UK & EU legislation have merged:
– 78/610/EEC protection to the health of workers exposed to vinyl chloride monomer
– 89/677/EEC, art.1 (3) importation, supply and use of benzene
– 90/394/EEC protection of workers from risks related to exposure to carcinogens at work
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
The REACH regulations came into force on the 01/06/2007 in all EU member states including the UK “replacing several Regulations and European directives with a single system. One of the main requirements of REACH is for importers or manufacturers of substances to register them with the central European Chemicals Agency. The aim of this is to ensure that human health and the environment is protected by ensuring that manufacturers and importers understand and manage the risks associated with chemicals. REACH also allows substances to move freely on the EU market as well as allowing for free competition and innovation in the European chemicals industry.” (www.hse.gov.uk)
What will be a major question regarding the UK’s exit from the EU is whether the REACH regulations will still allow chemical manufacturers in the UK to trade chemicals freely in the EU market. If not then one fears that the chemical manufacturing industry in the UK will be majorly affected by the loss of free trade.
Another major European Regulation which is further example of combined laws the UK & EU currently share relating the hazardous materials is the (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures – The CLP Regulations. – The CLP regulations which replaced the CHIP labelling system to now adopt the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) on the labelling and classification of chemicals.
It is hard to see why the UK government – HSE would throw out these newly adapted regulations but only time will tell.
What is certain is that BREXIT will cause a lot of uncertainty in industry and we can only hope at this stage that it will not have a negative effect on workplace health & safety going forward.
PES Stores – Pesticides
The Chemstore pesticide stores are designed for storing any agrochemical such as plant protection products, animal remedies or biocides. Our new pesticide stores are fully compliant with IASIS (Irish Agricultural Supply Industry Standards) and the HSE Guidance Document – Storing pesticides for farmers and other professional users
You are ensured that the storage for your pesticides are designed and constructed in compliance with relevant statutory requirements and are managed and operated to achieve a high level of protection for workers and for the environment.
The Chemstore PES range can be equipped with required safety & hazard labels for your site on request.
Fires in Stafford and Enfield highlight industrial problems within the UK
A major fire broke out on the Astonfields Industrial estate in Stafford last week. The cause of the fire, which raged on Wednesday 2nd March 2016, remains unknown and is being investigated by the Staffordshire Fire Service.
The fire was first flagged by a worker on the premises. It has been widely reported that the fire began at some time near 8.45am, and that the building collapsed by 11am. More than 70 firefighters were needed to prevent the fire, which they were able to contain by Wednesday afternoon.
The factory was storing 40,000 litres of oil, which is believed to be one of the primary reasons for why the blaze burned for a number of hours. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Michelle Hunt said: “The oil did catch fire. We don’t know where it was on the site but it was on Global Hygiene’s premise. On our log it said there was approximately 40,000 litres.” Whilst the oil was a primary concern for all involved, it is broadly believed that a gas main was involved in the fire which caused major problems for the emergency services.
Despite the severity of the fire there were luckily very few casualties. West Midlands Ambulance Service stated that one man working at the factory had suffered from minor burns, but there were no other injuries. Due to the massive amounts of smoke from the blaze Dr David Kirrage, Health Protection consultant for Public Health England in the West Midlands, said “Our continuing advice is for people to stay out of the smoke where possible. For those homes in the path of the smoke plume please keep doors and windows closed.”
Although we do not currently know the cause of the fire, one thing we can take from this event is the importance of hazardous material storage. The storage of the oil at the Global Hygiene warehouse was of primary concern at the time of the blaze. Although Staffordshire fire and rescue were not aware of the exact location of the oil on site, it was vital that the oil didn’t catch fire immediately so that staff could be safely evacuated.
Just one day prior to the fire at Global Hygiene, there was another blaze at an industrial yard in Enfield. It took over 70 firefighters to tackle the fire, which destroyed a warehouse after a huge stack of pallets caught fire. The cause of this fire is also unknown, but similarly highlights the importance of proper hazardous material storage.
Following these two recent fires in the UK, we must take a step back and think what improvements can be made to assist firefighters in the future. One thing to note following the Enfield and Staffordshire fires is that traditional smoke detection systems can be insufficient for outdoor industrial sites, as they do not detect smoke quick enough. It is of great importance to detect a fire as soon as possible. David Bendall, business development manager at Spotfire which develops cameras that use infra-red to detect flame within seconds, said that “All other forms of detection require can take five minutes to detect smoke. A camera will pick up smoke or flames in about 10-15 seconds.”
It is clear that there is a need for change in order to improve safety in the industry. In industrial sites, there should be an evaluation into hazardous materials handling, storage and transport. Industrial organisations must take a responsibility to work with the local fire department to provide key information, such as SDS sheets of the materials housed on site. In an ideal world every organisation should have a regimented emergency response plan in place to mitigate the risk to lives and the environment when disasters like this happen.Extreme increase in undeclared hazardous materials
The German transportation company Hapag-Lloyd has recently announced that in 2015 they saw an immense 65% increase in improperly declared hazardous materials that were carried by cargo. The announcement has been made possible due to Hapag-Lloyd’s Watchdog IT system, which analyses cargo data and flags up anything suspicious. This special safety software was industrialised by the company’s ocean carriers’ information technology and dangerous goods experts. It has been key in identifying dangerous goods, as it continuously checks for potentially hazardous materials.
Hapag-Lloyd announced that in 2015 they pin-pointed 4314 cases of incorrectly declared cargo. This is a 65% increase from 2014. It is believed that their dangerous goods specialists examined more than 236,000 suspicious cases which came to the attention of the firm’s safety software in 2015. This is a 46% growth from the previous year.
Why exactly has this increase occurred?
This swift increase in incorrectly declared hazardous materials is primarily down to two factors. One of the key reasons is the Tianjin explosion in China, which took place at a warehouse at the port which held hazardous chemicals. It’s widely reported that these chemicals were improperly stored, which caused the blast and left 173 people dead. Subsequently security measures were greatly tightened at the warehouse. The dangerous goods guidelines were tightened tremendously, and even prohibited hazardous goods completely in some cases. Rainer Horn, a spokesman from Hapag Lloyd, clarified that: “Many Chinese ports banned dangerous goods cargo partly or wholly after the explosions. So shippers didn’t declare their dangerous goods cargo hoping that they could get the cargo through.” Despite the fact that some ports have restrictions and rules in place which prohibit dangerous goods, some shippers are deliberately not declaring goods so that they can use all ports and carriers.
It’s believed that the other major reason for this increase in undeclared harmful goods is Hapag-Lloyds merger with CSAV’s container business. This merger boosted their overall business, and as a result increased the overall number of undeclared hazardous materials.
So what are the dangers involved with this increase?
The Tianjin blast highlights the importance of both appropriate storage and declaration of hazardous goods. Dangerous goods which are not declared hold a massive threat. In a statement Hapag-Lloyd described how: “Dangerous goods that are declared imprecisely, incorrectly or not at all have the potential to pose a major risk to crews, ships, the environment and other cargo on board.” It is extremely important for the crew members to know exactly what is inside the containers, so that they are able to carry out the correct handling procedures.
It’s clear from Hapag-Lloyd’s recent announcements about undeclared hazardous materials that there is a pressing need to improve health and safety legislation. Ken Rohlmann, head of the company’s dangerous goods department, sums up the danger of incorrectly declared dangerous goods in his statement: “If you consider that a single incorrectly declared container is enough to cause a disaster, the devastating potential of every single incorrect or non-declaration becomes clear.”Poor chemical storage to blame for Texas blast
A final report on the West Fertilizer Company plant explosion in 2013, which left 15 people dead and more than 160 injured, has revealed that inadequate chemical storage was to blame for the blast.
The West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas caught fire and subsequently exploded. The blast happened as firefighters attempted to drench the flames, leaving 11 firefighters dead. The blast shook the town of West, Texas. It was enormous registering on seismographs as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake and shaking homes up to 50 miles away.
What was the cause and who is to blame for this horrific blast?
The incident was labelled as “preventable” by the chairman of the U.S chemical safety board. Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso described how the blast “should have never occurred.” The finger has been pointed at many different parties. The U.S. Chemical safety board blamed government regulators, other authorities and the plant owners themselves for the explosion.
Poor chemical storage is broadly believed to be the primary factor involved in leading to this blast. It’s time for change in regards to how dangerous chemicals are being stored. According to TheHill.com the fertiliser plant was storing ammonium nitrate – the primary reason for the tragic blast.
The report focuses on how the ammonium nitrate was being stored. It is believed that ‘ammonium nitrate which is used to make fertilizer, was stored in bins in a seed’. This improper storage proved to be disastrous. According to The New York Times the company: ‘stored 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and 110,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the plant’. However, the company did not appear to disclose the amount of ammonium nitrate it was storing.
Dallas Morning News reported: ‘Fertilizer facilities like the one in West are not required to have liability insurance that would compensate for damage they might cause, state insurance officials say, even if hazardous material is on hand.’ It’s evident that the danger associated with these chemicals had not been recognised. In addition to these problems, it’s thought that McLennan County, Texas didn’t have an emergency response plan in place. It’s believed that one of the key issues cited in the report is the lack of fire codes.
Lessons to be learnt following the disaster
It must now be a top priority for industrial organisations in the US to review the manner in which dangerous chemicals are handled and stored.
Eventually in April 2015, three bills were introduced regulating storage and inspection of ammonium nitrate and a fourth bill was also introduced to create a notification system alerting the public about any hazardous chemical leak at a nearby manufacturing facility – this bill was introduced throughout the whole state of Texas.
Disasters like Texas and Tianjin in China clearly highlights the need for a global approach to improving health and safety legislation, in particular with the handling and storage of highly hazardous materials.