Bad Chemical Reactions Cost Lives

By Chemical Processing Staff

Apr 04, 2016

If your facility stores reactive chemicals it’s up to your company to properly identify and store them. Seems pretty simple. But in practice, does that happen? According to a recent article in Firehouse magazine, even with both self-imposed and mandated safeguards, accidents still occur.

One substance with the propensity to create a chemical reactive hazard is ammonium nitrate (AN).

To illustrate the point, the Firehouse article highlights two similar incidents: In 2009, a chemical plant that manufactures and sells AN fertilizer caught fire in Bryan, Texas. The local fire department, knowing the reactive dangers of the product, allowed the fire to burn. In 2013, an explosion at another fertilizer plant in the city of West, Texas, claimed the lives of 15 people, injured more than 300, and destroyed or damaged over 150 structures. Of those killed, 12 were members of the town’s volunteer fire and emergency services and were unaware of the dangers posed by a fire involving AN.

In 2014 Chemical Processing wrote about the Texas plant in Learn from the West Fertilizer Plant Explosion. Pointing out that despite heightened awareness of safety issues following such an event, long-term solutions for preventing similar accidents are woefully slow to emerge. Companies might be unsure how to proceed and where to focus. Establishing or enhancing safety measures for complex and inherently dangerous operations can be daunting. Cost—real or perceived—can further hinder progress.

Read the rest of the article from Firehouse.

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