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In the world of process safety we have Safe Upper and Lower limits on a lot of common process parameters, such as pressures, levels, temperatures, etc. Flows on the other hand are quite often over looked as a critical process parameter and when your HHC/EHS is a non-conductive flammable liquid both FLOW and LEVEL must be addressed within the facility’s PSI and SOPs. This article will discuss how safe upper limit on flow and safe lower limit on level can play a huge roll in improving flammable liquid safety and quite possibly PSM/RMP compliance.

A crew was conducting well kill operations on a sweet oil well. A worker was monitoring the return flow to the service rig trough from on top of the rig tank. When the returns became gassier, the return flow was opened to the degasser section of the rig tank and the trough flow was pinched in slightly. The rig manager proceeded to the top of the rig tank stairs where his personal gas monitor immediately began to alarm on high LEL (lower explosive limit). The rig manager looked up to observe both the rig tank and the worker on the rig tank being engulfed in flames.  The worker standing on top of the rig tank jumped over the handrail to the ground, and suffered a broken hand from the landing. The flash fire resulted in minor burns to the worker’s face, chest, back and thighs, and extensive burns to the forearms which required skin grafting surgery and 18 days in the hospital. The rig manager jumped off the stairs and was not injured in the event.  Ignition source was determined to  be a poorly terminated electrical livestock control fence “jumper” wire on the perimeter fencing.  CLICK on image below for the full alert from ENFORM.

Screen Shot 2015 02 21 at 7.18.34 PM

Classifying Flammable Liquids GHS

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Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders are being filled by decanting equipment. These cylinders can be for commercial use (e.g. forklift trucks) or for domestic use (e.g. cook tops, barbecues, and camping). It is critical that all decanting operations are carried out in a suitable and safe manner.

What happened?

A fire broke out at a business whilst LPG cylinders were being filled using decanting equipment. The source of ignition may have been from a static discharge between the worker’s hand and the LPG cylinder. Even a small static discharge when touching an LPG cylinder can be enough to ignite LPG vapor. The employee suffered injuries and significant damage was caused to the workplace. The incident also caused a serious threat to other workers, members of the public and surrounding residential and commercial premises.

Issues

  • Operators not properly trained to use decanting equipment to fill LPG cylinders.
  • Operators not following recommended decanting procedures to discharge any static energy from cylinders prior to filling.
  • Synthetic clothing, such as nylon, increases the risk of static discharge.
  • Certain environmental conditions can increase the effect of static discharge e.g. dry weather with low humidity and lack of or incorrect use of appropriate personnel protective equipment (PPE).
  • Awareness of hazardous zones around decanting areas when filling LPG cylinders.

Recommendations

Operators and workers undertaking decant filling of LPG cylinders should ensure that:

  1. The recommended decanting procedure is adopted, either from the suppliers training document or, as a minimum, from AS/NZS 1596:2014 The storage and handling of LP Gas, appendix J – Decanting Procedure.
  2. Operators and workers understand the nature of static electricity and the recommended discharge of static energy.
  3. Workers are able to demonstrate competency in decanting equipment to fill LPG cylinders procedures. This includes using PPE appropriate for the task and responding to LPG emergencies.
  4. No ignition sources are introduced into a hazardous area where decanting equipment to fill LPG cylinders is being used. This includes customers who may accidentally bring a source of ignition into the hazardous zone.
  5. Decanting equipment is in a serviceable condition. Operators and workers are competent to identify worn or damaged decanting equipment.
  6. Cotton or anti-static clothing is worn where possible.
  7. The deadman’s handle is operable allowing filling only with the worker attendance.

For further information about gas safety, visit www.dnrm.qld.gov.au 

Have you ever seen several full tanker trailers parked without their mode of transport under them or a railcar with the Class 3 Flammable placard hooked up to the process and being used as a storage tank? Although OSHA’s 1910.106 makes no specific prohibition against this practice, I would like to point out that the International Fire Code (IFC) of which many states in the USA have adopted as their state fire code does make a SPECIFIC PROHIBITION of using railcars or tank trucks as “storage tanks”.

Description of Incident: 

An operator was checking the level in a 500 gallon methanol storage tank:

  • Tank was polyethylene plastic, double wall
  • A worker climbed on top of the tank.
  • Flammable vapour was ignited, when the worker touched the cap on the inner tank, resulting in an explosion and flash fire. 
  • The worker received first aid for a second degree burn to the arm. 
 
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