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Tag Archives: Emergency Response Procedures

Are You Ready for Real-Time Emergency Response?

While many facilities have a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place, they may not consider all environmental and hazardous conditions. A well-developed Emergency Action Plan facilitates and organizes company and employee responses during workplace emergencies, resulting in fewer and less severe injuries and, possibly, less facility structural damage.

A facility’s EAP is imperative to worker safety, of course, and can likely handle contained events, like fires. But what about a chemical release? A natural disaster? A terrorist threat? Evacuation might not always be the best response to a given emergency; consequently, the ability to provide real-time planning and response is becoming ever more important.

Incident Management

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that all business have an Incident Management System (IMS). An IMS, as outlined in NFPA 1600, has a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure and is designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents.

As one part of a solid IMS, an Incident Command System (ICS) should be identified, similar to how an Emergency Response Team is identified in an EAP. The ICS puts a detailed plan in place to create more organized and streamlined efforts, which can ultimately minimize disruptions to operations, save lives , lessen damage and/or loss, and protect surrounding communities. In addition, it also allows the company to understand the total cost of risk.

Developing an Incident Management System

When developing an IMS, one should understand that the use of ICS depends upon the size and complexity of the business. Functions and roles may be assigned to multiple individuals or a few persons may be assigned multiple responsibilities. Figure 1 is a great example from FEMA of what the ICS might look like:

Emergency Response Procedures Flowchart
Figure 1—Incident Commander is the contact point with Safety, Liaison and Public Information for Operations, Planning, Logistics, Finance and Administration.

The Incident Commander should not only know what is happening/has happened, but he/she should understand what could happen next. They should be able to easily identify and answer questions such as:

  • What type of incident is it?
  • Who should be notified?  Why?
  • Which areas require evacuation or a shelter-in-place?  Why?

In addition, the incident commander should take into account worker/responder exposure monitoring during the emergency, as well as any potential offsite impact.

When creating an IMS, one should consider automated solutions for incident management. Emergency management software, coupled with strategically placed chemical and meteorological sensors, allows incident commanders to respond to emergencies faster, more accurately, and in real-time with data provided by live plume models, release-rate estimations, meteorological data, and so much more.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The importance of emergency preparedness—conducting regular drills and identifying corrective actions—cannot be stressed enough. If workers and contractors do not know what actions to take or where to go, then the plan does no one any good.

Remember, drills combat human behavior, and there are a number of factors that affect human behavior during an emergency, including a person’s assumed role, experience, education, and personality, as well as the emergency’s perceived threat and the actions of others sharing the experience. Drills give employees and contractors experience, allowing them to react accurately, faster and more effectively in case of an actual emergency.

To learn more about Total Safety and its unwavering commitment to ensure the safe wellbeing of workers worldwide, contact them at 888.44.TOTAL or at mail@totalsafety.com.

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!