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Category Archives: Industrial Hygiene

Total Safety Celebrates Leading Safety Milestone With Two Million Hours Without OHSA Recordable

Houston, TX—Total Safety’s Fire Services group has reached an industry leading safety milestone – two million hours without an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable.

Celebrating two million non-recordable hours is a significant accomplishment. This milestone was achieved, in part, due to Total Safety’s commitment to continuous improvement in its safety culture. Safety is Total’s core value – the safety of its employees and customers. An active participant of OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program, it currently has seven Star VPP sites.

“As a safety company, our focus is 100 percent on the Wellbeing of Workers Worldwide.  Achieving two million hours without a recordable incident speaks volumes to the commitment of our employees. Our employees believe in safety and their hard work and dedication is represented in this milestone,” said Steve Long, Director of HSEQ for Total Safety.  “Our Fire Services team works in very unique and hazardous conditions. Our employees take pride in leading our safety culture and we are very proud of their accomplishment.”

The Fire Services team provide Total Safety clients with cost-effective and comprehensive risk mitigation strategies around complex worker and facility fire protection needs.

As defined by OSHA, a recordable case is an occupational work injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or an injury or illness that requires an employee to record days away from normal work.

 

About Total Safety

Total Safety, a Warburg Pincus portfolio company, is the world’s premier provider of integrated compliance, personnel and professional safety solutions and the products necessary to support them. It operates from 142 locations in over 20 countries to ensure the safe Wellbeing of Workers Worldwide (W3). For more information about Total Safety, visit www.totalsafety.com.

 

For additional information contact:

Darrell Whitley

Senior Vice President – Market Development and Enterprise Sales

713-353-7108

 

Silica Dust Exposure During Fracking

By John Baker, Total Safety Certified Industrial Hygienist

The public debate about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has weighed the potential for environmental pollution versus the economic and energy independence benefits which fracking has unlocked. But recently, worker exposure to silica dust during fracking has been highlighted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

One commonly used method of fracking requires large volumes of sand and water to be pumped into wells at high pressures to break up tight formations, like shale, which have trapped oil and gas. Many truckloads of sand are off loaded and transferred by conveyor belts before being mixed with water and other chemicals and pumped downhole. The dust produced, which may contain up to 99% crystalline silica, is a health concern due to the risk of silicosis, a progressive and disabling lung disease.

Several oil and gas companies partnered with NIOSH in the collection of 116 personal air samples at 11 fracking sites in five states. Almost half of the air samples exceeded the enforceable OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), which is defined on a sliding scale depending on the amount of silica in the respirable fraction of dust collected. NIOSH has established a recommended silica exposure limit (REL) of 0.05 mg/m3. Almost 80% of the samples exceeded this REL.

Until a safe and economically viable substitute can be found or engineering controls such as exhaust ventilation are installed, personal protective equipment including respirators must be used. A NIOSH approved, properly fitted and worn half mask or filtering facepiece dust respirator provides protection only up to 10 times the relevant occupational exposure limit. Almost 10% of the samples were at least 10 times the OSHA PEL and 30% of the samples were at least 10 times the NIOSH REL. Dust respirators alone may not adequately protect workers from the risk of silicosis during fracking.  An OSHA NIOSH hazard alert may be downloaded at http://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.pdf  . This excellent document provides detailed information about the study and links to additional information.

Industry and government are continuing to cooperate on finding workable controls. Rick Ingram, S.G.E, BP North America Gas, and the Chairperson of the National STEPS network states that:

NIOSH, OSHA and the US Onshore E&P Industry have been working in a cooperative effort to ensure that we fully understand this issue and protect our workers. As part of this effort, a focus group has been formed to further explore respirable silica, share best practices and develop a unified plan forward. Our industry has much to be proud of. We have the privilege of helping to supply low cost domestic energy to our nation while providing high quality, good paying jobs. Through the efforts of industry associations, organizations and agencies such as API, AESC, IADC, IPAA, SafeLandUSA, National STEPS Network, NIOSH, OSHA, educational institutions and countless dedicated individuals and professionals, we are we are working diligently to make our industry segment the safest of all industries. The fact that this hazard was identified and is being mitigated though voluntary, cooperative efforts demonstrates how far we have progressed and the very positive future of health and safety in US Onshore Exploration and Production segment.  To learn more, visit www.nationalstepsnetwork.com.

To learn more about potential respiratory hazards during fracking, call us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Industrial Hygiene Elements of a Successful Turnaround

By John Baker, Total Safety Industrial Hygienist

Previously, Total Safety has emphasized the importance of including the need for IH resources during the planning of the turnaround to ensure that the exposure of employees (and possibly contractors) to airborne chemicals, silica, asbestos, noise, heat, radiation and other health hazards is monitored and controlled.

Pre-planning is essential for a successful turnaround because the specialized equipment and materials needed to test or detect certain materials and physical hazards may not be available on a moment’s notice.  This is especially true for a chemical plant turnaround that may require testing for aldehydes, amines, cyanides or other chemicals not typically tested for in refinery turnarounds. Filter or sorbent media that are pre-treated with specific reagents are necessary to monitor for aldehydes, ketones  and amines. Pesticide manufacturing plants typically require specialized testing and lab procedures to properly measure the materials of interest. Some materials, such as certain isocyanates, require the samples to be refrigerated and analyzed in the laboratory as soon as possible for accurate results. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon air samples should be wrapped in foil and shipped refrigerated by overnight delivery to prevent degradation by sunlight and elevated temperatures. Testing for hexavalent chromium fumes while welding, cutting or arc gouging on stainless steel or high temperature alloys requires different filters and lab testing than for welding fumes on common steel. Chemicals that have high ionization energies, such as methanol or sulfur dioxide, may not be detected by a typical hand held or area photoionization detector, so a modified or different type of instrument would need to be used in that case.

Another point to be clarified well before the turnaround begins is the scope of work regarding confined space entry permits and hot work permits. Just because an IH technician is walking through a unit on the way to an assignment does not mean that he or she is under contract or allowed to “sniff” a space and “sign off” on a confined space or hot work permit. Generally, a supervisory employee of the owner or operator of the refinery or chemical plant is the person with the knowledge of the process and the equipment, and therefore, the associated hazards, who should be responsible for the final sign off on such permits. If this is not clarified at the planning stage, it could cause undue delays and confusion during the turnaround itself. The ventilation of confined spaces is another aspect of turnarounds that benefits from detailed prior planning. The location of the intake of the air supply must be in a clean, uncontaminated area, and the exhaust should likewise be directed away from workers, trailers or areas used for plant traffic. Be careful where “vac” trucks are discharging their exhaust as well.

Thought should also be given to which pre-turnaround activities need as much or more IH scrutiny than the maintenance, repair or replacement work itself. Some of the greatest potential for exposure occurs while units are being brought down and drained and purged. The potential for oxygen deficient atmospheres when nitrogen purging, or reactions of residues when using high temperature steam, should be considered and appropriate monitoring and PPE provided.

Thinking ahead and communicating in detail with the turnaround’s project engineering team about what, when, who and how of each work task will ensure that the IH resources committed to the turnaround are available when and where they are needed.

For additional information about pre-planning for your turnaround, contact us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Handling Petroleum Coke in a Safe and Healthful Manner

By John Baker, Total Safety Certified Industrial Hygienist

For Environmental Health and Safety Services, Go Total SafetyPetroleum coking is an environmentally responsible recycling process used in some oil refineries to make the most use of hydrocarbon residuals that otherwise would go to waste. As safety and health professionals, we are sure to control the high temperature and pressure used in the coke domes to “bake” the volatiles out of the coke and the drill and high pressure water sprays used to cut the coke out of the coke domes.  However, critical safety and health hazards are present in the material handling processes used to move petroleum coke to storage and ultimately, to the customer. Enclosed conveyors are often used to move the coke into a storage building and then onto docks for loading onto barges, ships or to land based transportation loading facilities. The rollers moving the conveyor belt, the motors powering the rollers, vibrating screens and the limited space for personnel movement and access within the conveyor structure all present potential physical and electrical hazards which must be addressed in the Job Safety Analysis for production and maintenance tasks. Personnel must perform constant maintenance of the conveyors, often spending a considerable portion of a work shift crawling under conveyors to vacuum or sweep and shovel spillage. Even if the vacuum system is in top condition, the awkward space constraints of the conveyor gallery present ergonomic challenges that must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

A potentially catastrophic hazard which must be controlled in coke handling operations is the possibility of a combustible dust explosion or deflagration. Petroleum coke is readily able to form dust clouds of finely divided, combustible material. OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for Combustible Dust (CPL-03-00-008) emphasizes the need for administrative and engineering controls including immediate housekeeping, prevention of ignition sources, ventilation with spark detection and explosion/deflagration suppression systems, explosion venting and other  pressure relief devices, when a combustible dust layer exceeds 1/32 of an inch (about the thickness of a typical paper clip) on more than 5% of the floor area of a facility or any given room.

Total Safety studied the dust exposure potential of a petroleum coke handling operation at a large refinery that shipped its coke on ocean going vessels. Particle size analysis of the bulk coke product indicated that throughout the material handling process, more than 65% was smaller than the 40 mesh or 425 micrometer size that OSHA, NFPA and other authorities use as a first step in assessing the potential to form a combustible dust cloud. The bulk coke had less than 5 percent in the “respirable” particle size range of 4 micrometers; however the dust which wafted off the bulk material at transfer points as measured by an optical particle counter indicated that the majority of the airborne dust was in the “respirable” range. Personal samples of airborne dust were collected on filters connected to air sampling pumps worn by each worker. The filter cassettes were wrapped in aluminum foil before sampling and kept refrigerated afterward to prevent degradation of the collected chemicals. The collected dust was weighed and then chemically analyzed for “coal tar pitch volatiles (CTPV).”  Two of the samples exceeded 0.2 milligrams of CTPV per cubic meter of air and were further analyzed for specific compounds within the “polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)” chemical category. Neither sample showed any detectable amounts of PAH compounds.  NIOSH approved half mask respirators with P100 filters provided adequate protection if properly worn according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

In summary, petroleum coke is an economically important recycled material which can be managed in a safe and healthful manner when the associated hazards are anticipated, recognized, evaluated and controlled in a systematic program.

For additional information regarding the health and safety of your workplace, call us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Plant Outage Safety: Make a List and Check it Twice!

By Mandy Sunderland, Senior Industrial Hygienist

It is recognized that well-planned and executed outages are far less expensive and much safer than taking a reactive approach and responding to unplanned failures as they occur.

Tremendous effort typically goes into planning and coordinating the various aspects of a major outage to maximize repairs and preventive maintenance that can only be conducted in “shut down” mode. It is critical that all issues, like industrial hygiene, rescue and safety personnel, are fully addressed in the early phases of outage planning. Playing catch-up in these areas can have a negative impact on worker safety, project budget and schedule.

Industrial Hygiene Management

Assessing risks of chemical and physical exposure for the myriad activities involved in major industrial outages can be daunting for even the most seasoned Industrial Hygiene professional. But a comprehensive IH assessment is an essential part of outage management to assure IH resources are allocated properly, controls are provided and exposures are monitored.  Creating a comprehensive list of activities and potential exposures will protect workers, improve safety and reduce costs during the outage process.

From the assessment, the information should then be compiled and prioritized for controls and monitoring.  Priorities should be established based on:

  • Toxicity and immediate risk to workers
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Understanding of the work activity
    (are exposures related to the activity well understood and documented, or is
    this a new or unique potential exposure that is not well understood?)

Emergency and Rescue

Having highly skilled safety personnel on standby to protect workers in emergency situations reduces liability and increases productivity by being able to respond quickly and appropriately. Rescue personnel should provide:

  • Self-rescue and rescue team training
  • High angle, hull entry and confined space rescues
  • Safety supervision and confined space assessment
  • Space or site rescue pre-planning and pre-entry equipment staging
  • Proper entry permit documentation
  • The writing of hull entry procedures and guidelines
  • Continuous atmospheric monitoring and ambient air testing

Specialized Industrial Safety Personnel

Industrial Safety Technicians and Safety Attendants (holewatch/firewatch/bottlewatch) increase safety and efficiency and reduce costs. By having Specialized Safety Personnel on an
outage provide excellent benefits, like:

  • More competitive billing rates
  • Craftsmen are not tied up performing attendant duties
  • Reducing the number of multiple contractor employees, thus reducing the total man-hour costs of the project
  • Immediately being able to provide time tickets and head count reports, as well as up-to-the-minute cost reporting

Due to the high cost and loss of production associated with outages, it is essential these are executed as efficiently and safely as possible.  Proper management of safety issues during outages can help your company increase profitability and decrease liability during crucial outage and shutdown periods. Outages are hectic, chaotic and stressful by nature. By making your safety list (and checking it twice), you can help ensure the success of your outage!

Emergency Response Industrial Hygiene Monitoring

Because of the unique challenges surrounding emergency response IH monitoring, choose a provider that is able to develop written protocols/procedures, to deploy teams and equipment quickly, to provide experienced/knowledgeable personnel, quality support staff, and can adapt to ever changing conditions.By Lisa Browning, Training Coordinator

The time is now! Plan for how your facility will conduct emergency response industrial hygiene (IH) monitoring. What should you be looking for in a provider of this service? Because of the unique challenges surrounding emergency response IH monitoring, choose a provider that is able to develop written protocols/procedures, to deploy teams and equipment  quickly, to provide experienced/knowledgeable personnel, quality support staff, and can adapt to ever changing conditions. Some of the more challenging issues arising specific to IH monitoring include but are not limited to mobility, flexibility, proper equipment, documentation, reporting, and site specific training.

Developing written protocols/procedures has to occur first. The protocols set the applicable exposure levels, alarm levels and actions including deployment of respiratory protection, establishment of safe zones, evacuation, shelter-in-place or other personal protective measures.  Reporting mechanisms, format and timing of data reports should also be included in the protocol.  It is important to remember that reports are often shared not only with the client but others as well including federal, state and local authorities. Therefore, a data management support team must be available 24/7 to provide quality assurance and create a database from which a variety of reports can be prepared quickly.  Certified industrial hygienists should be utilized to write the IH sampling protocol and be available to lead project management.  Summary reports that pull all of the information together at the end of the event should be prepared and retained just as any other industrial hygiene medical record.

Next comes deployment which includes both necessary equipment and a team of personnel to operate the equipment. Your provider has to have the equipment in inventory or else have connections already in place to get it. Equipment ranges from simple personal monitoring pumps to the more technologically advanced real time wireless monitoring systems with built in GPS and data management software. All of which must be rugged, portable, intrinsically safe and able to collect large quantities of data for the specific contaminant(s) of concern.

One thing often overlooked is the need for an IH Mobile Command Center. It must communicate with both the site’s incident command center and also the outside world. A high speed Internet connection is needed for monitoring data management software. A standalone IH Mobile Command Center will not interfere with the incident command center  communication requirements but seamlessly integrate on site.

Training is a valuable component. Your provider should have the ability to train their own responding team and also be available to train other site workers. Monitoring personnel should have completed HAZWOPER, Incident Command, NIMS, respiratory protection and other standard courses. However, prior to deployment, training should occur on the incident IH monitoring protocol, site specific hazards, client’s procedures, reporting requirements, and equipment use.

Support away from the response is required. The provider needs to have a strong support staff  provide additional resources to handle issues that may arise during the sampling. Plan now and choose your emergency response IH monitoring provider with these criteria in mind to ensure that your facility is fully prepared for any emergency response.

ICU, a Total Safety Company, Has Relocated

ICU, Total Safety's Environment, Health and Safety Services Company, has relocated in Houston, Texas.ICU, A Total Safety Company will now offer environmental, health and safety services from a new location:

4100 N. Sam Houston Parkway W., Suite 290 Houston, TX 77086

Business: 281.363.9939
Fax: 281.363.4744

ICU’s professional experience and expertise provides customers with the resources necessary to complete  EHS projects successfully, within budget and on time, while reducing risk and liability. Continue to look to our experts for Occupational Health Services, Safety Services, Technical Training Services, Environmental Services and more, just from a new, centralized location.

Finding Safety Solutions that Work for the Midstream Industry

Total Safety provides a suite of safety services and equipment that can be mixed and matched to provide a customized solution for midstream projects that will improve worker safety, decrease project time and lower costs.With the growing energy demand, midstream infrastructure is under great pressure to be delivered on time and within budget. Such pressure allows for the temptation of shortcuts to be taken or inadequate processes to be implemented in order to meet that demand.

Having processes and controls in place specifically tailored for midstream operations, as opposed to relying on those used for upstream, will streamline projects and reduce costs overall.

Specialized Safety Personnel

Having a team of personnel experienced in midstream operations aids greatly in creating an environment of safety because the team is aware of what safety precautions should and need to be taken, and they will know how to respond in case of an injury or emergency.

Total Safety assigns safety consultants, field safety crews, medics and specialized safety staff to midstream projects, long- or short-term, with the goal of maintaining high standards of safety. With Total Safety’s Specialized Safety Personnel (SPP), the billing rates are more competitive than “craftsman” billing rates, and the number of multiple contractor employees is reduced by having a centralized pool of trained safety personnel that can be dispatched and assigned to all areas of the project, reducing the total man-hour costs of the project.

Fire Protection Engineering, Design and Installation

Fire monitoring and suppression systems are an integral part of any safety program, specifically in midstream operations, as the infrastructure is typically in a remote location, a good distance from any type of outside aide. Therefore, these systems are imperative to the safety of life, assets and the environment.

Total Safety specializes in fire protection services that include providing audits and design/engineering of water spray and foam systems, fire pumps, fire detection and alarm design packages for process units, and design and installation of fire protection systems, as well as the inspection testing and maintenance of those systems.

Industrial Hygiene

Potential occupational hazards may include exposures to acetone and alkylates, to benzene, butadiene, hydrogen sulfide and kerosene, depending on your operations. Exposures may be encountered during pipeline activities and by tanker, rail car, ship and barge operations.

A Work Place Exposure Assessment (WEA) is at the heart of any successful industrial hygiene program.  Total Safety’s comprehensive WEAs take a fresh look at tasks, materials, exposure potential and controls through a systematic approach and associated process. It results in a clearly prioritized list of actions that help ensure the well being of workers. Along with reducing incidents, benefits include reduced liability, increased productivity and safety awareness, and conformance with regulations and industry standards.

Communications

Pipeline operators constantly monitor pipelines for up-to-date measurements and leak detection and stay in touch with maintenance personnel spread over wide-areas. Operators monitoring storage tanks situated at the end of a pipeline, as well as in refineries and chemical plants, must be able to communicate around-the-clock with key personnel.

Total Safety’s communications solutions are designed to increase safety by providing immediate communication in emergency situations and maximizing productivity by allowing workers to communicate quickly.

Our top-of-the-line communications equipment, available for rent or purchase, is ideal for remote locations. Our fleet includes everything from two-way radios to mobile Internet hotspots and is backed by in-house certified technicians who maintain and upgrade the equipment.

Safety Equipment, For Rent or Purchase

Essential to any industrial operation, safety equipment is designed to protect workers and the environment; however, from personal protective equipment (PPE) to high-tech gas monitors, safety equipment only works when it is being used properly, in compliance with the manufacturer and other regulating bodies’ guidelines.

Total Safety offers a complete line of industrial safety equipment for rent or purchase. In fact, they house the world’s largest rental fleet of equipment manufactured by leaders in the industry. In addition, Total Safety employs in-house certified technicians to repair and maintain Total Safety or customer-owned equipment.

Emergency Response

What if the unthinkable were to happen, and a leak were to occur in the pipeline? A proactive plan should be in place that addresses the necessary steps and procurement channels that should be in place to streamline recovery and get the systems back online.

With quick response time, seasoned personnel and an integrated menu of support services, Total Safety aids companies when disaster strikes. Their start-to-finish solutions are designed to deliver on the high number of customer requests and respond to the customer’s needs by providing two-way radios, fall protection, fire extinguishers, gas detection instruments, as well as the calibration and bump testing of the monitors, respiratory equipment, fit-testing, PPE resale and management, and, most importantly, safety training.

There are many aspects of a midstream project that need to work together to make the project not only successful, but safe. To overcome undesirable project outcomes, ensure that key materials, labor and contractor capabilities are planned for and that the right processes and internal control support are delivered.

Industrial Hygiene is a Must in Pipeline Operations

Accidents involving pipelines have jumped from 9 in 2008 to 22 in 2010
Accidents involving pipelines have jumped from 9 in 2008 to 22 in 2010

By Mandy Sunderland, Senior Industrial Hygienist

Pipeline accidents and fatalities have been on the rise, jumping from nine in 2008 to 22 in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  There is a growing recognition that America’s aging oil and gas infrastructure may be playing a part in this increase.

Major overhauls may be required to prevent events such as the September 9, 2010, natural-gas explosion that devastated a neighborhood in Northern California. In this case, a 50 year old pipeline ruptured at a defective seam weld and the ensuing explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in early April 2011 an initiative to repair and replace the nation’s pipelines. Texas alone has about 16% of the nation’s gas transmission lines and more than half of these lines were laid more than 40 years ago, which makes them more vulnerable to failure. In Texas, there are roughly 46,000 miles of gas transmission lines that pipeline employees must cover on a regular basis. The increased activity to support the anticipated pipeline repair and replacement initiative will require a large number of people working together to conduct repairs that present significant exposure potential to hazardous activities not encountered during normal operations.

Given the nature of the business, exposure monitoring in pipeline operations presents some real logistical challenges, and it may be hard to conduct monitoring in a cost effective manner. As these projects become more numerous, the regular work force may be unable to handle the increased load, and thus, less experienced workers may be used, which presents additional hazard potential.

Potential risks may include exposures to acetone, and alkylates, to benzene, butadiene, hydrogen sulfide and kerosene depending on your operations.  Exposures may be encountered during pipeline activities and by tanker, rail car, ship and barge operations.

As we all know, a Work Place Exposure Assessment (WEA) is at the heart of any successful industrial hygiene program.  A comprehensive WEA takes a fresh look at tasks, materials, exposure potential and controls through a systematic approach and associated process. It results in a clearly prioritized list of actions that help ensure the well being of workers. Along with reducing incidents, benefits include reduced liability, increased productivity and safety awareness, and conformance with regulations and industry standards.

A facility without a current WEA may sample unnecessary materials, bringing with it a false sense of security. This can occur when changes in operations, processes or materials are not recognized and evaluated. A well conducted WEA will identify the necessary medical surveillance and training, as well as the specific control equipment and personal protective equipment that are suited to the specific pipeline maintenance task and the non-routine exposures that might occur during replacement or renovation. Most companies recognize the benefits of conducting WEAs, but when it comes to pipeline operations, completing the process sometimes slips off the radar, partially due to the highly mobile and dispersed work force. While it is tempting to put WEAs on ‘the back burner’ during business planning and budgeting, this can be a costly and even a deadly mistake.

Since 2002, the DOT has been required by law to identify the highest risk lines and mandate repairs.  So this might be you!  So hear it through the pipeline and complete your WEA ASAP to avoid potential risk, reduce your liability and increase employee safety and morale on the job!

If you would like additional information regarding Work Place Exposure Assessments or creating a custom industrial hygiene program, call us at 888.44.TOTAL or email us.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Hygiene Hazards in the Coker Unit

By Mandy Sunderland, Senior Industrial Hygienist, Total Safety

In modern refineries, heavy ends are also processed in delayed coker units (DCUs) to yield a higher solid carbon residues called petroleum coke.Crude oils today tend to have more “heavy ends” than lighter crudes of the past. Heavy ends have always been extracted and sold as a relatively low value industrial fuel or used as a feedstock for asphalt-based products, such as roofing tile.  But in modern refineries, heavy ends are also processed in Delayed Coker Units (DCUs) to yield a higher value solid carbon residue called petroleum coke.

Coke with relatively low metal and sulfur content is used as a feedstock in the manufacture of anodes for aluminum and steel production. Coke with higher metal and sulfur concentrations is ordinarily used as fuel. This article explores industrial hygiene exposures typically associated with coker operations and recommended measures for controlling or eliminating these risks.

According to OSHA and EPA, there are unique safety hazards associated with DCU operations that have resulted in relatively high rates of frequent and serious accidents.  There are also potentially significant industrial hygiene exposures related to DCU operation, including:

  • Hazardous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and trace amounts of polynuclear aromatics (PNAs), can be emitted through open drums or during processing operations.
  • Accumulated airborne dust around a DCU may exceed acceptable exposure limits.
  • Oxygen deficient atmospheres may occur when wet coke in an enclosed area absorbs oxygen from surrounding air.
  • Heat stress can occur during warm weather, particularly for those required to wear protective clothing while performing tasks on the coke drum structure.
  • Hot water, steam and liquid hydrocarbon (black oil) can escape from a coke drum and cause serious second or third degree burns. In addition, liquid hydrocarbon from a coke drum can be well above its ignition temperature, presenting an additional fire hazard.

Systematic control of hazards and exposures are the key to protecting DCU workers.  Recommended controls include:

  • Conducting a comprehensive Workplace Exposure Assessment (WEA) and establishing appropriate protective measures that anticipate variations in the range of DCU feed stocks and operating conditions.
  • Establishing personnel protective measures to protect against inhalation and contact with coke dust and potentially contaminated mists from water used for cutting, quench, or coke conveyance.
  • Reducing dust exposure by providing adequate ventilation and by implementing other controls such as shoveling, sweeping and vacuuming.
  • Verifying conformance with a safe entry permit system to ensure appropriate measures are taken prior to and during entry into any enclosed area or vessel where coke may be present.
  • Conducting training in recognition and prevention of worker heat stress.
  • Configuring coke drums with automated ‘Delta ValvesTM’  to reduce the likelihood of vapor leakage, exposure to high temperatures and contact with unanticipated released material.

Finally, management should ensure that emergency response and medical treatment plans fully account for worst case incidents related to DCU operations.  These plans should include regular emergency response exercises that ensure familiarity with emergency signals, evacuation routes and burn trauma response procedures.  Comprehensive protective measures and emergency response procedures are needed for Delayed Coker Unit operations, because potential exposure to coke is no joke!