Failure to take action on recommendations following a North Carolina plant explosion was partly responsible for a deadly explosion at an Ohio plant last year, according to the results of an investigation.
The board recommends a revision of fire protection codes to allow companies to determine safe distances between operating areas and occupied buildings. The May 2009 accident was caused when flammable vapor was released from a waste recycling process, leading to a violent explosion that killed two workers and damaged 25 nearby homes and businesses.
“This accident should not have happened. Our report notes that OSHA cited the company for inadequate attention to process safety management practices in the handling of flammable liquids,” said CSB Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso. “But in case of an accident, I believe it is absolutely critical that buildings at chemical facilities be sited safe distances from process equipment to maximize the safety of workers. We are making recommendations that would help ensure that operating areas with occupied buildings such as control rooms be sufficiently separated from process areas containing flammable liquids and gases that have the potential to explode.”
The report found that occupied buildings were located less than 30 feet from the waste processing area where the flammable vapor was released.
The board has issued a recommendation to the National Fire Protection Association, which develops codes and standards for the industry, to require companies to determine safe distances from occupied buildings. The board also revised a previous recommendation to the Environmental Technology Council, a hazardous waste industry trade group, to petition the NFPA to develop the standards. The board said the council failed to respond adequately to recommendations made after the 2007 explosion in North Carolina.
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