The tragic explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in Texas has raised many questions about chemical safety. While a fertilizer plant would not normally fall under our typical clientele, it is important to take this opportunity to discuss the need for caution and protection in the petrochemical industry.
Any time that combustible or explosive materials are present, safety must be priority number one. For example, some of the most dangerous situations can occur when a unit is being drained or taken down for maintenance. Planning ahead and taking the appropriate amount of time to prepare carefully can ensure the well-being of your employees and your business. Planning ahead can also help avoid any miscommunications or gaps in the turnaround process. If everyone knows their roll in the procedure then there is less risk that a problem will go unnoticed or an important step will be neglected.
Proper ventilation is also an important aspect of the turnaround process. When a plant is undergoing repairs, cars and trucks may be parked where they normally would not be. Exhaust fumes from a running truck can cause serious complications if they are accidentally taken in with the air supply. A simple way to avoid this is to plan safe parking places for vehicles that are far enough away from workers, equipment, trailers, and plant traffic.
Besides the obvious chemical dangers and blast risks, the warmer weather can also put your employees in danger. Surprisingly, spring weather has a high potential for causing heat stroke due to quick escalations in temperature. The human body generally needs a few days to adjust to hot weather, but in the springtime the thermometer can jump 20 degrees within a day. Providing shade and/or shelter is an easy way to protect your workers. Everyone should be alerted of the warning signs of heat stroke and how to prevent it.