Friday chemical safety round-up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

  • Chemjobber shared 14 thoughts you might have during a (somewhat) unexpected exotherm: “And there come the hot solvent fumes out of the top of the condenser!”
  • John of It’s the Rheo Thing gets to populate a pristine new lab and wonders what his labmate ordered that’s flammable, corrosive, and toxic
  • Study slams nuclear waste practices at Hanford, which a source recently characterized for me as the “American leader in radionuclide contamination of the environment
  • CSB released its final report on the 2011 Carbide Industries fire that killed two workers and injured two more. From the press release:

    The deaths and injuries likely resulted when water leaked into the electric arc furnace causing an over-pressure event, ejecting furnace contents heated to approximately 3800 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with molten calcium carbide, the furnace spewed powdered debris and hot gases, which blew through the double-pane reinforced glass window of the furnace control room that was located just 12 feet from open vents atop the furnace. The two workers inside died within 24 hours from severe burn injuries.

    CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “This accident is literally a case study into the tragic, predictable consequences of running equipment to failure even when repeated safety incidents over many years warn of impending failure. When control room windows blew out during previous furnace incidents, the company merely reinforced them, rather than taking the safe course and moving the control room farther from the furnace and investigating why the smaller furnace overpressure events were happening in the first place. It is what we call a ‘normalization of deviance,’ in which abnormal events become acceptable in everyday operations.”

  • OSHA is seeking input on how to update its Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Program; National Recognized Testing Laboratories “are third-party laboratories that meet OSHA’s requirements for performing safety testing and certification of products used in the workplace”

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • A leak of pivaloyl chloride at an AkzoNobel plant in Texas cause da shelter-in-place order at a nearby LyondellBasell facility
  • A faulty valve caused a sulfur dioxide leak at a wastewater treatment plant in Tennessee
  • Hydrogen sulfide leaked at Austal ships in Australia

Not covered (usually): meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. Your sarcastic juxtaposition of the recent C&EN article on Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) radionuclide environmental research (EMSL) and the NYT’s article on the very critical GAO report on DOE’s Hanford cleanup missed several important facts. The PNNL research program is part of DOEs Biological Research Portfolio, not its Hanford cleanup program. Their facilities are located in Richmond WA, just outside of the Hanford reach where DOE is attempting to cleanup legacy bomb-making radio-nuclides. To imply that PNNL research is somehow mishandling its own nuclear wastes is TOTALLY uncalled for and an impressive mis-reading. The NYT article/GAO report is rife with criticism of the the larger contractor run process of building facilities to handle and clean-up these WW2 generated radio-nuclide remnants in the Hanford reach. Substantial waste handling hasn’t even begun at Hanford. Almost all of the NYT and GAO criticism is about capitol construction and overall project management, not safety of waste handling. Most importantly the GAO report does not address the safety of PNNL research labs and their handling of their own wastes. Get your facts straight.

  2. @anna–That quote refers specifically to Hanford in both the round-up bullet point and the story to which I linked.

  3. My guess is that the mystery chemical that meets those three hazard criteria is ethylene diamine or some other amine.