“Winterization” Safety at Chemical and Processing Facilities

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Source: USCSB - YouTube

Washington — The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is emphasizing the importance of preparing for the “unique safety challenges” posed by cold weather at refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that handle hazardous materials in a new Safety Digest and corresponding video.

According to the CSB, when the temperature drops, the freezing process begins, and materials expand. This can crack or break pipes and rupture or damage process equipment. This damaged equipment may not become evident until the temperature rises, the ice thaws and a leak develops.

CSB summarizes three incident investigations in which a total of six workers were killed, and 11 more were injured, to illustrate the dangers of ineffective winterization practices and programs.

The incidents occurred in 2014 when a chemical release occurred at a pesticide manufacturing facility in La Porte, TX; in 2007, when a propane fire was sparked at a refinery in Dumas, TX; and in 2001, when a gas condensate fire erupted at a steel mill in Chesterton, IN.

The agency states in the video that it has established key winterization safety lessons that facilities should follow:

  • Effectively identify and address the risk of freeze-related hazards to piping and process equipment through process hazard analyses, management of change evaluations, pre-startup safety reviews and operating procedures;
  • Create and implement a winterization checklist to ensure plants and process systems are ready for cold weather;
  • Establish a formal, written freeze protection program;
  • Survey piping systems for dead-legs and ensure they are properly isolated, removed or winterized; and
  • Systematically review process units – including infrequently used piping and equipment – to identify and mitigate freezing hazards.