Industrial Hazards are more common than many people think. The big cases get the publicity, but there are many smaller incidents that occur before an extreme case is newsworthy. In the past two years in the USA, there have been a dozen or more newsworthy cases – this begs the question of how many “smaller events” must have happened that did not make the news?

In many cases, since the overall cost of safety is not seen in the bottom line, companies try to cut corners by implementing the minimum acceptable safety standards to “just get by”.

Other companies try to do the right thing, and unfortunate circumstances still happen, due to inadequate training and/or understanding of what things can or may go wrong.

The unseen cost to these manufacturing facilities is that many must turn to their competition to deliver product while they are getting back on their feet, at the expense of ultimately losing customers to their competitor.

And in even more cases, these companies can never recover at all after an incident and end up finally closing their doors, which is the ultimate cost.

Here are the 3 Warning Signs to look for to prevent such a fate:

  • Oven Burps; A mini-explosion(s) inside of a process oven caused by an introduction of a source of ignition (spark) during the release of off-gas within an oven.
  • Unusual Flash-Off/Flash Fires: This is a sudden, intense fire caused by a combination of air, flammable gas and a source of ignition inside of the oven/dryer.
  • Vessel Overheating: This is when parts of a process become too hot to the point of major damage to the equipment that could be caused by a build-up of an explosive mixture and a source of ignition in air.

The three main contributors to such incidents according to FM Global:

  • Process Wear and Tear: Proper maintenance of equipment is essential (cleaning of ovens/exhaust ducts, checking corrosion resistance, etc.)
  • Airflow problems and maintaining proper ventilation: This can be done using continuous measurements. “If you can measure it, you can understand it. If you can understand it, you can control and even improve it.” – H. James Harrington
  • Human Errors: Provide proper operator training to recognize potentially dangerous conditions and automate processes where they can be automated. To quote Rafael Moure-Eraso of the CSB, “Time and again,… we find examples where companies could have used available, feasible, safer technologies to prevent disastrous accidents, but chose not to do so.”

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