Chemical health and safety news from the past couple of weeks:
- Says DrugMonkey commented on the EH&S incidents on his campus: It is always the chemists.
- Liberal Arts Chemist shared an incident from when he was cleaning out a lab as an undergrad: “I remember one flask went into the sink of hot soapy water and started to hiss and I immediately ducked below the edge of the sink just before a resounding boom that brought the entire floor to the door.”
- A piece in Nature on gold mining touched on the risks for workers (h/t It’s the Rheo Thing)
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office urged federal agencies to coordinate better to avoid duplicative inspections of labs handling controlled agents, such as anthrax
- One of the Chemical Safety Board’s recommendations following the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Tex., was that the American Petroleum Institute and United Steelworkers International Union work together to develop standards to prevent operator fatigue. CSB now wants public comment on the draft “recommended practice” developed by the organizations. The request appears to be a part of a more general review of recommendations by CSB.
Fires and explosions:
- A tank of polyethylene exploded, killing seven workers and seriously injuring 13 more, at a Daelim Industrial plant in South Korea
- An electrician was burned in a fire at an Akzo Nobel Polymer Chemicals plant in Texas; the electrician was working on an actuator that broke and ejected a chemical into his face; a company spokeswoman said the blaze from magnesium oxide that exploded and then caught fire; the electrician is suing the company
- Aluminum dust in duct work started a fire at aerospace and defense manufacturer RSA Engineered Products in California
- A lightning strike or spark ignited a 40,000-gal ethanol tank at Ecoenergy in North Carolina
- And in South Carolina, something ignited the outer lining of a 1,000-gal tank at Lindau Chemicals of “a chemical used in paint mixtures”
- A shelving unit collapsed in a lab at Ashland University in Ohio, spilling chemicals that subsequently ignited. “A staff member was able to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher, but not before the smoke set off one sprinkler, [university spokesman Steve] Hannan said. Potentially chemical-laced water spilled over into all four labs on the south end, he said.”
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- Why it’s important to keep food and chemicals separate: Three workers at India’s Vikas Power Equipments were fatally poisoned after they “ran out of salt and searched for it in a room that also stored painting material. There they found the chemical which looked exactly like salt. The chemical, which couldn’t be immediately defined, was then mixed in the food (tehri) they had cooked.” Four other workers were hospitalized in critical condition.
- Nitric acid ate a hole through a fitting on a 2,500-gal tank and spilled into a concrete berm at Aulick Chemical in Kentucky; officials evacuated people in a three-quarter-mile radius
- A one-ton cylinder fell, cracked, and leaked chlorine at Bermco Industrial Center in Alabama
- A blast of pressurized oxygen knocked a maintenance worker off his feet at a manufacturing plant in New Jersey (thankfully, the oxygen didn’t ignite, or the incident would have been a lot worse)
- A liter of chloroform spilled at a hospital in Wisconsin
- Bringing back “on roads and railways” just because: Lego! And broken wine bottles.
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.