If it is not properly treated, static electricity could create electrical discharge in form of sparks. This is an ignition source that can ignite flammable vapor or gas readily.
Recently, I have experienced with such hazard, where improper treatment of static electricity hazards was the main cause. The static electricity was happened when dry metal catalyst was charging into a stainless steel vessel.
How to Prepare for Static Electricity Hazards and Prevention
It is not good habit if we do improvement after an incident occurs. But sometimes, an incident could uncover unsafe operation or improper procedure that so far could not be detected or identified.
Let’s back to my recent experience with static electricity hazards. After that fire incident occurred, which was triggered by static electricity, I took some lessons in order to prevent such incident in the future. Of course I would like to share them here with you, my valuable readers.
- Grounding cable was not in good condition. Its resistance was over allowable resistance (standard). There was no regular inspection on its condition. Regular checking, measurement and visible checking, is necessary.
- Grounding cable might be no enough to avoid electricity discharge from happening. At that time, it was only one grounding cable used. Further study should be done to decide single grounding cable is enough or not.
- There was no flammable gas or vapor checking before charging metal catalyst into catalyst feeder or vessel, after nitrogen gas substitution. There might be a source of flammable gas leakage into the vessel where catalyst is charged into it.
- Flammable gas or vapor isolation was not properly done. There was no log-out / tag out procedure done to prevent unintended flammable gas or vapor into catalyst feeder.
- Parallel operation was done by operators in order to shorten the time without any notification or approval from their supervisor/manager. Unfortunately, this operation was done with less safety consideration.
- Improper type of portable fire extinguisher was installed near the catalyst feeder. For type of potential fire it is suitable. But it will contaminate process liquid if it is used to put out fire that directly contact with it.
- Safety consideration was not adequately given to the required number of personnel for doing such risky job at different floor level even though it takes only several second to climb up or down.
Don’t Forget Going to the Gemba
This incident was reminded me to going to the gemba more and more frequently to see how operator doing their jobs. There may be some deficiencies from the original procedures. Communicate more effective with all operators are also very essential especially about what their daily jobs.
I realize that I have missed some important things after this incident. It reminds me a very famous safety slogans “safety is an going process. It will never end.”
Finally, I hope that you could take good lessons from this static electricity fire hazards and prevention article.
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