The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released its findings following their investigation into a fatal tank explosion that occurred on July 28, 2014 at the Omega Protein facility located in Moss Point, Mississippi. The July explosion killed 25-year old Jerry Lee Taylor II and injured three other subcontractors.

In the statement, CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “Our team, working alongside federal OSHA inspectors, found that the incident occurred during hot work on or near a tank containing eight inches of a slurry of water and fish matter known as ‘stickwater’…The explosion blew the lid off the 30-foot-high tank, fatally injuring a contract worker who was on top of the tank.” Moure-Eraso further stated that, “CSB investigators commissioned laboratory testing of the stickwater and found telltale signs of microbial activity in the samples, such as the presence of volatile fatty acids in the liquid samples and offgassing of flammable methane and hydrogen sulfide. The stickwater inside of the storage tank had been thought to be nonhazardous. No combustible gas testing was done on the contents of the tank before the hot work commenced.”

This incident is another tragic reminder of the dangers that can result from hot work and the importance of hot work planning. Though hot work is a leading cause of industrial fires, injuries, and fatalities, incidents are often preventable. It is important to put safety first whenever performing any type of hot work. Here are some personal safety tips that can help:

  • The employer, or facility manager, should have a hot work management program in place that is understood and strictly followed. In addition, the program should mandate that a risk assessment be performed for every hot work activity prior to issuing a permit.
  • OSHA 1910, Subpart Q, standard entitled “Welding, Cutting, and Brazing”, as well as NFPA 51B: Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work (2014 ed.), should be understood and strictly followed.
  • Wear clean, oil, and grease free clothing.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as eye protection, leather gloves with long cuffs, and heavy work boots. Falling droplets of metal will instantly burn through running shoes and will continue to burn through to the operator’s foot. Long pants and shirt sleeves should be worn, however, do not roll up pant legs, as the cuffs can possibly catch sparks. Leather aprons and flame proof jackets can also be used to protect the operator.
  • Do not weld inside enclosed spaces or in tanks where the only ventilation comes from above, as it could cause suffocation.

You may also want to check out the CSB video, “Dangers of Hot Work” for more information. And, if you need help identifying challenges in your facility, training your associates, or developing a comprehensive no-nonsense hot work policy, please fill out the form below to contact one of our qualified fire protection engineers today. [gravityform id=”1″ name=”Contact Us”]