Risk perception and communication in C&EN
Dec08

Risk perception and communication in C&EN

Cognitive psychologist Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon University writes about risk perception and communication in C&EN this week: Whether judging the risks of a chemical, a financial product, or a looming pandemic, when people lack facts, they must rely on their perceptions. As scientists, we addressed the big question of how those perceptions arise by employing the small-question tools of our field—studies designed to disentangle the complex processes shaping all behavior. Building on basic research into how people think, feel, and interact, our work revealed general patterns. Although the piece–and Fischhoff’s research–is geared toward how the general public might perceive risks raised by the chemical industry, it sounds like some of the work could be applied to improve communication of safety concerns to laboratory or manufacturing workers. Fischhoff includes some resources in the...

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ACS journals enact new safety policy
Dec07

ACS journals enact new safety policy

From my story at C&EN: American Chemical Society journals will have a new safety reporting requirement starting in 2017: Authors must “address and emphasize any unexpected, new, and/or significant hazards or risks associated with the reported work,” says an ACS Central Science editorial describing the change (2016, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.6b00341). ACS Publications editors and staff took a closer look at how the journals addressed safety after a “confluence of events” that included high-profile accidents and a survey of safety policies of chemical journals (J. Chem. Health Saf. 2016, DOI: 10.1016/j.jchas.2015.10.001), says Sarah Tegen, vice president for global editorial and author services at ACS. ACS also publishes C&EN. Previously, individual journals set their own safety policies. Go read the story for...

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Chinese courts hand down one death and 49 prison sentences for Tianjin disaster
Dec06

Chinese courts hand down one death and 49 prison sentences for Tianjin disaster

Courts in Tianjin last week on Nov. 9 sentenced a company chairman to death and 49 others to prison for actions leading to an explosion last year in which at least 165 people were killed, reports official Chinese news agency Xinhua. “On Aug. 12, 2015, a series of explosions ripped through a warehouse of Ruihai Logistics Co. Ltd. (Ruihai Logistics) in Tianjin Port, leaving 165 people dead, eight missing, and 798 injured,” Xinhua says. “The blasts also damaged 304 buildings, 12,428 cars, and 7,533 containers, incurring economic losses amounting to 6.87 billion yuan (1.01 billion U.S. dollars).” “Yu Xuewei, chairman of Ruihai Logistics, was found guilty of bribing port administration officials with cash and goods worth 157,500 yuan (23,333 U.S. dollars) to obtain a certificate to handle hazardous chemicals at the port,” Xinhua reports. “Yu was convicted of illegal storage of hazardous materials, illegal business operations, causing incidents involving hazardous materials, and bribery. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.” The 49 people who received prison sentences included 24 managers and other employees of Ruihai Logistics and Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng, as well as 25 government officials. “Officials of various government agencies involving transportation, ports, customs, industrial safety, city planning, and maritime affairs were also responsible for the accident due to dereliction of duty and abuse of power,” Xinhua says. Investigators determined that the incident started when overly dry nitrocellulose overheated and spontaneously ignited, reported C&EN’s Jean-François Tremblay last year. The fire started by the nitrocellulose spread to ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which exploded. h/t Jean-François...

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Presentations from #ACSPhilly available to ACS members
Dec01

Presentations from #ACSPhilly available to ACS members

The American Chemical Society has posted videos from the National Meeting held in August in Philadelphia, including those from the Division of Chemical Health & Safety’s session on “Chemical Safety in Public Policy”: Sustainable chemistry and public policy Evaluating risks – Understanding multiple perspectives What you need to know about TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) reform California’s Safer Consumer Products Program: Asking the questions Some government relation lessons from the development of subpart K (for managing hazardous waste at academic laboratories) Influence of litigation on corporate behavior Safety policies of peer-reviewed journals Public policy statements: Advising policymakers and regulators As well as a session on “Biochemistry of Cannabis”: Pennsylvania’s hemp and cannabis history Cannabis and public health SB3: Medical cannabis legislation in Pennsylvania and addressing the public health concerns Patient focused certification (PFC) – Quality standards of cannabis products for medical use Chemotypic and quality control analysis of the California medical cannabis market Biochemical considerations in cannabis therapeutics Cannabinoid receptors: Nomenclature and pharmacological principles Can you pass the acid test? Critical review and novel therapeutic perspectives of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) Hydrogenated cannabis oil Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN): Connecting cannabis chemists/scientists and creating opportunities The division already posted slides from these and other sessions at the meeting (scroll down to the Aug. 29...

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Juries award damages, CSB releases report for fatal Williams Olefins explosion
Nov30

Juries award damages, CSB releases report for fatal Williams Olefins explosion

Costs are mounting for Williams Olefins following a 2013 fire at a plant in Geismar, La., that killed two workers—Zach Green, 29, and Scott Thrower, 47—and injured 167 others. In the past few months, juries have awarded eight injured workers a total of $26.9 million after attorneys “argued that Williams, key management figures and others had known for years that one of two reboilers used in the refinery process was isolated from pressure relief—which meant there was a risk of over-pressurization and explosion,” the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. A reboiler is a heat exchanger that supplies heat to a distillation column. Last month, the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board released its investigation findings. Reported Jeff Johnson for C&EN: The reboiler that failed was one of two in the system that provided heat to the propylene fractionator—a distillation column that separates propylene and propane. The second reboiler was a backup and had been off-line for 16 months. Plant officials assumed the backup reboiler was clean and available for use. When the operating reboiler appeared to have fouled, plant operators began to shift operations to the idle reboiler. The plant operators did not know that the standby reboiler contained hydrocarbons and its pressure relief system was not in proper order, CSB found. As the reboiler’s heat increased, the confined liquid hydrocarbons expanded, resulting in a quick and dramatic pressure rise within the vessel. The shell ruptured, causing a release, an expanding vapor explosion, and a fire. A series of process safety management program deficiencies over the 12 years before the accident allowed the reboiler to be unprotected from overpressure problems, according to CSB. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also investigated the incident. The agency initially cited the company for six safety violations fined the company $99,000, but that was negotiated down to $36,000. The case remains open pending abatement of violations, according to the OSHA inspection database. Another inspection in the fall of 2013 resulted in one citation and a fine of $7,000. That case is closed. OSHA appears not to have inspected the facility since then. Williams Olefins is a subsidiary of the Williams...

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