Process Safety Failings Run Deep, CSB's Wark Says

Informing his audience that a 12th victim of the Feb. 7 Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, Ga., had died, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board member William Wark yesterday listed numerous process safety failings that he said are common in many plants around the country. His list included maintenance that is delayed or not done, poor or nonexistent public notification of hazardous processes and stored chemicals in their midst, incomplete analysis of process hazards, ignored and unenforced procedures, little training in abnormal procedures, and too little follow up of near misses. Wark spoke in Dallas to attendees at ISNetworld's 2008 Annual Users Group Conference. OSHA chief Edwin Foulke Jr. also gave a keynote speech there Thursday in which he said OSHA has trained more Compliance Safety and Health Officers -- the agency's inspectors -- to perform combustible dust inspections as part of its National Emphasis Program targeting dust hazards. The Port Wentworth blast was probably a dust explosion, CSB has said.

"We continue to forget the lessons learned. We continue to run things to failure, in many cases," Wark said during his speech. "We're finding all over the country that there's not the type of off-site planning with the community, with facilities, that should be done." He said he's working with CSB staff to produce a video on emergency planning preparedness that he hopes will be used nationwide to address this problem.

Wark also said CSB hopes to raise awareness of confined space hazards significantly, even though it has a small professional staff of only about 40 people.

Foulke discussed OSHA's current National Emphasis Programs and said the next one the agency will undertake will target chemical plants. There are 81 to 84 refineries in the United States that will be inspected by OSHA within the next two years as part of its current petrochemical refineries/process safety management NEP, he said. The conference (visit www.isnetworld.com) continues today.

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