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John Bresland, chairman of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has urged companies to ensure they have effective winterisation programmes to prevent major chemical and refinery process accidents.

Speaking in a new video safety message, which can be viewed on the CSB safety message channel on Youtube, Bresland said such accidents could result in deaths or substantial property damage.

Bresland said: ‘Winter is here.

‘As temperatures continue to drop, it’s important for process plants to be prepared for the unique safety challenges of subfreezing weather.’ Viewers who can not access Youtube can download the video files for all safety messages and safety videos from the CSB website.

Bresland cited two serious accidents investigated by the CSB where water froze inside piping or equipment causing it to rupture, releasing flammable liquids that ignited.

At a refinery near Dumas, Texas, in February 2007, a water-containing pipe froze and cracked, releasing high-pressure liquid propane; the resulting fire burned three workers and caused more than USD50 million in property damage.

In January 2001, two workers burned to death at a large Indiana steel mill after they were sprayed with flammable gas condensate, which ignited.

The accident occurred after ice had cracked and damaged a valve in the mill’s coke oven gas distribution system.

Bresland said: ‘These two serious accidents illustrate the importance of establishing effective winterisation programmes at refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that handle hazardous materials.

‘Companies should establish formal, written winterisation programmes, and they should apply appropriate management of change techniques when piping or equipment is taken out of service.’ The accidents in 2001 and 2007 involved what are known as ‘dead legs’, or sections of piping that do not have any flow of liquid.

The safety message noted that dead legs are particularly susceptible to freezing hazards and should be surveyed and then removed, isolated, or properly winterised.

US Chemical Safety Board

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