Learning from oil spill disasters
Jul22

Learning from oil spill disasters

In last week’s issue of C&EN, I had  a story that looked  back at the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills, with an eye toward lessons learned for addressing future spills. I focused on the environmental clean-up, not on the process safety problems that led to the incidents, but there was one talk from the University of New Hampshire Oil Spill Response Forum held last fall that I wanted to flag here. The speaker was...

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Unequal risk
Jul21

Unequal risk

I’m out of the office this week, so here’s some reading: The Center for Public Integrity’s multi-part series called “Unequal Risk,” focusing on worker chemical exposures. A few examples: Slow-motion tragedy for American workers The impenetrable world of Mark Flores, the disabled son of a woman who was exposed to lead and methanol when working at an electronics company pregnant A history of OSHA: After 44...

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DuPont named severe violator by OSHA
Jul10

DuPont named severe violator by OSHA

The Department of Labor announced yesterday that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has placed DuPont in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, following a 2014 methyl mercaptan leak that killed four workers and injured a fifth at a DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas. In May, 2015, OSHA cited DuPont for 14 safety violations and proposed fines totaling $99,000. The citations were for: 29 CPR 191...

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Refinery safety systems include flaring
Jun16

Refinery safety systems include flaring

If you’ve ever wondered why refineries burn off–flare–hydrocarbon gases that might otherwise be useful, answers lie in the letters to the editor in this week’s C&EN: The answer to Allen Hoffman’s question, “Why does anyone flare anything ­anymore?” is that flares are part of safety systems (C&EN, April 27, page 2). Hoffman was referring to an article about oil refiners (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 27). When...

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OSHA fines DuPont for methyl mercaptan deaths
May20

OSHA fines DuPont for methyl mercaptan deaths

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cited DuPont for 11 worker safety violations for a November, 2014, methyl mercaptan leak that killed four workers. The citations come with a total fine of $99,000. Methyl mercaptan is used to make the insecticide methomyl. DuPont determined that more than 23,000 lb of methyl mercaptan was released in the incident, C&EN reports. “The fatal incident occurred as one...

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Bhopal, 30 years later
Dec04

Bhopal, 30 years later

Thirty years ago yesterday, a runaway reaction in a 15,000-gal methyl isocyanide isocyanate storage tank at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in a massive leak. The vapor, which is denser than air, blanketed an area of about 25 square miles. Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to the gas and thousands of people died. The incident is widely considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster....

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