CSB Stresses Preparedness for Cold Weather Operations

"It is important for chemical and other facilities to be prepared for the unique safety challenges posted by cold weather," the agency's new Safety Digest document says, "such as hazards of water freezing and expanding, which can damage equipment or cause instrumentation to fail."

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has posted a video and a four-page document about winterization -- preparing equipment and instrumentation for cold weather operations. "It is important for chemical and other facilities to be prepared for the unique safety challenges posted by cold weather," the document says, "such as hazards of water freezing and expanding, which can damage equipment or cause instrumentation to fail."

It cites the possibility of cracked or broken pipes because of freezing temperatures, noting the damage might not become evident until the temperature rises and a leak develops.

The document contains short summaries of the Nov. 15, 2014, release of methyl mercaptan at a DuPont facility in La Porte, Texas, which killed four workers and injured three others; a Feb. 16, 2007, propane fire at a Valero refinery near Dumas, Texas, that injured four workers and caused an extended shutdown after the refinery was evacuated; and a gas condensate fire at a Bethlehem Steel Corp. plant on Feb. 2, 2001, in Chesterton, Ind. Two workers died and four were injured in the incident.

The three incidents illustrate the importance of effective winterization programs at refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that contain hazardous materials, the document states, adding that the American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 2001, Fire Protection in Refineries, provides guidance for freeze protection programs at refineries.

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