Project aims to gauge your ability to
(1) Illustrate concepts of risk and risk management;
(2) Analyse risk perception and how this affects risk management;
(3) Examine the purpose and aims of risk control;
(4) Carry out risk assessment using the appropriate tools and techniques for a hazardous work process;
(5) Propose and design appropriate risk treatment measures to eliminate or minimize the associated risk; and
(6) Apply risk management methods and principles in the selected industry sector.
The company’s routine operational activities play a major role in the company’s viability and resilience, and your management has decided to focus on the associated operational risks. In addition, your company has also embarked in new projects to enhance their business scope. As the operations manager of your company, you are one of the key members of the company’s overall Risk Management Team. You are to assist the operation director to oversee operational risks relating to the routine operations as well as the additional project risks, showing understanding of the overarching risk management approach by doing the following:
- Outline the structure of the company’s risk management team that oversee the overall risk management framework and approaches.
- Select an ad-hoc non-routine work processat your workplace.
- Select and form the risk assessment team appropriate for the selected work process.
- Search and review related past incident history within the company and industry sector. Supplement your findings with literature reviews, historical case studies and/or incident investigation reports.
- Carry out qualitative risk assessment of the selected work process utilizing at least TWO (2) different risk assessment tools and techniques to identify, analyse, andevaluate the associated hazard-risk.
- Search and review current good practices and safety/control technologies relevant to your selected work process. Supplement your findings with literature reviews, seminar or communities of practice sharing, and/or emerging technology
- Discuss the impact of the associated hazard/risk and appropriate risk treatment. In your discussion, state the advantages, disadvantages and explain why and how the associated risk can be managed.
- Recommend the appropriate risk treatment. In your recommendation, state the advantages, disadvantages and explain why your recommendation is most appropriate.
Chemical industries are one of the majorly focused industries today with the issue of health and safety of workers. In the event of accidents which also result to either an injury or loss of life, the cost imposed is one of the major challenges that should be avoided. The cost of repairing damaged equipment’s and in retaining are considered to be significantly huge. In respect to the view of the chemical operation, incidents or accidents should be highly avoided as a single turn of events can lead to the closure of the entire organization closure. Today, one of the continuous changes that have continued to occur in health and safety application of chemical plants is the reduction of incidents and increase cost application (Bahr, 2014). These changes have been widely caused by the growth in technology and adaptation of engineering automated system in chemical plants. Basing on the current performance of major plants, the changes in the system has significantly reduced the malfunction occurrence and risk exposure to workers.
When dealing with the new operation activities, it will require a lot of attention in implementing healthy and safe approaches. Like in any other chemistry laboratory, there are a lot of very harmful materioals which can severely cause a lot of damages. Some of the basic elements that are commonly used in the company production process include sulfuric acid, acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, ethanol, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, acetone, ammonium sulfate, hydrogen sulfate, and propanol (Kletz & Amyotte, 2010). According to the Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA), all these chemical are considered to highly hazardous and the exposure to any kind of environment should be keenly carried out. With the application of this chemical in almost all major activities, i.e. production of chemicals, cleaning agents, and others, there are very many factors that should be highlighted in controlling incidents and safe environmental practice (Haimes, 2015).
Risk Management Framework
The above risk operational framework has been built in the consideration of the type of activities which are normally undertaken and most occurring type of incidences. Normally, all the respective staff is supposed to acknowledge all these necessary procedures and how to react in case of any incident. The most common types of accidents in chemical industries include chemical explosions, chemical burns, reactor failures, and leakages (Yuan, Khakzad, Khan, & Amyotte, 2015). With this, already put measures such as fire extinguishers equipped for dealing with chemical fires are located in various points of the building where they can be accessed easily by any individual. One of the basic challenges in the operational risk assessment framework is that it has been had to predict future accident through the analysis of other historical incidents. The main reason for this challenge is due to the variation of contributing factors (Kletz & Amyotte, 2010).
Description of the Work Process: The Explosion of Organic Powders
The occurrence of the accident occurred during the process of charging raw material. The explosion specifically occurred in the reactor where dioxane vapor got into contact with static electricity charge. It was reported that when raw material was being charged, a static electricity discharged in the process causing a very huge explosion. According to the case findings, the cause of the static electricity was mainly due to between the manhole of the reactor and particles of powder which charged into a bag of static electricity. Luckily, no one died due to the incident but two operators who were at the scene during the explosion were severely hurt. In reacting to the accident as fast as possible, I delegated a team of five members I included to conduct a thorough assessment of the incident. Due to the unexpected incident, other continuing projects were significantly affected. In order to retain the required performance level, some of the alternative approaches such as the increase of the support staff were implemented.
Review of the Past Incidents
The occurrence of organic powder explosion is considered as one of the majorly occurring issues in the company and most of the chemical industries today. This has been a continuous challenge that has been occurring since the development of chemical industries in the past few centuries. It considered that 50%-60% of the fires and explosion in chemical industries have been caused by the same principle of generated electric sparks and unpredicted complications during the charging of raw material (Backhaus & Faust, 2012). Unlike most of the other accidents in chemical plants, the explosion of organic powders is considered to be a very delicate problem which requires extensive assessment before the plant is declared safe again for operation. Generally, this means in the event of such incident the company activities must be fully assessed to identify the extent of the issue and to identify whether other areas have been contaminated in the process (Yuan et al., 2015).
According to the past company safety records, the number of cases that occurred as similar to the case is approximately four. In comparison with other chemical companies, organic powder explosion is one of the challenging issues that need to be resolved in the chemical engineering process (Amyotte & Eckhoff, 2010). Due to the continuous occurrence of the similar challenges, Singapore government and other respective bodies have imposed stiff restrictions to all the major chemical companies as a control measure of reducing the occurrence of this cases. The move by the government has been majorly caused by the increase of hazardous exposure to the employees. For example, in the past 28 years, there have been over 3,500 incidents of combustible dust explosions. Out of the 3,500 cases, 281 of them have been considered as very destructible resulting in the death of over 120 workers and over 718 workers who were severely injured. Over the years, many approaches from both the regulatory bodies and chemical companies have been adopted in the approach of curbing the issue. An example includes the OSHA Grain Handling Facilities standard which is also currently used by many countries including Singapore (Yuan, Khakzad, Khan, Amyotte, & Reniers, 2013).
With the identification of the above features, the Health Safety and Environment policy must ascertain that the identified issues are well monitored and controlled. The role of an operation manager should be highly concentrated on the recurrent evaluation of the policies in making sure that all required standards are maintained and applied as it pertains. Also, HSE requires high employee engagement in the implementation and practice of safer approaches at work (Dunj?, Fthenakis, V?lchez, & Arnaldos, 2010). Through the analysis of the case study report, the HSE policy should have provided the procedures for undertaking hazard evaluation of the continuing process where the incident could have likely been prevented from occurring. Majorly, through the proper application of risk assessment and management, the variety of accidents can be easily identified and proper means of dealing with the issue (Haimes, 2015).
By reviewing another similar case of organic powder explosion, this time also every element was the same except for the raw material which was sodium hypophosphite. In order to prevent the occurrence of static electricity, argon gas was used as substitute gas in the reactor. Despite the careful application of almost the entire charging process, the operator latex gloves caused the generation of static electricity which in turn reacted with the combustible mixture of dioxane-air in the reactor. The case caused the life of the operator and also injuring almost people who were near the scene. Through the increasing review of the case, scientists have majorly concluded that this challenge has continued to occur due the basic reason that most of the elements used in reactors are extremely combustive and there have been no necessary applications of eliminating the generated static electricity (Reason, 2016). Although most chemical plants employees are highly educated, lack of knowledge and human errors are also considered one of the major contributors of organic powder explosions.
Risk Analysis and Evaluation
The main two methods that will be applied in the risk analysis and evaluation include Preliminary Risk Analysis and Fault Tree Analysis. The preliminary risk analysis tries to follow events before the incident and in line analyzing what could have caused the accident. Fault tree analysis majorly focuses on assessing the reliability of the used components and the entire system in general (Nagy, 2017).
Fault Tree Risk Analysis Method
The first analysis that is undertaken is the study of substance molecule and how the state of their properties where if they are in stable and/or normal state. According to the test, the overall released energy was very low and less than 10% of the fine powder percentage fraction. The measurement of the powder flammability limit was considered to be slightly above normal limit also showed the powder was in good condition to be used in the process.
The use of inert gas i.e. nitrogen was supposed to be continuously supplied in the reactor during the charging process. The main purpose of the nitrogen was to prevent oxygen from entering the reactor (Nagy, 2017). In accordance with the set standards in maintaining powder-air mixture, the main limits range from 6% to 15% where past this point the powder-air mixture is considered as highly flammable (Amyotte, 2013). However, the use of nitrogen as preventive gas has been described not to be very effective in controlling the air mixture. In the view of the case, the involved operator also reported that cause of the explosion was caused by them operating at a much greater flow. This was basically one of the major causes of the incident since the operators seemed not to flow the required safety procedure in the manufacturing process.
The analysis of the static electricity sources is one of the major challenges in the risk assessment of most of the explosions of organic powder. In measuring types of static charges that could have ignited the powder-air mixture, the ignition rate/capability of the substance measured should be reviewed (Reniers, Ale, Dullaert, & Soudan, 2009). For example, the plastic static evaluation showed that it had energy order value 1 mJ (1?5 kV) which cannot ignite any substance. Thus, the final conclusion of the ignition point was found to be due to the mechanical friction in the reactor which surpassed the amount of nitrogen meant for curbing any explosions.
Preliminary Risk Analysis Method
Through the use of the preliminary method, there were various causes which could have resulted to the occurrence of the incident but to make the data collected relevant in the report all the necessary test must be carried to support the hypothesizes (Modarres, 2016). At the beginning of each production batch, the reactor was first emptied. The process was carried out efficiently in a way no air was allowed inside the reactor. To achieve this, the batch was drained using a bottom valve while the top valve supplied nitrogen to cover the created vacuum space. The flow of nitrogen was also considered to be throughout thus giving no room for the formation of hybrid (powder + air + solvent vapor) mixture. The only point the dust cloud was formed was when the fell into the reactor but with the application of the above conditions, no ignition could have been supported.
During the operation, the workers reported that they were running past schedule time of the batch. Due to this, the operators decided to minimize the loading time range so as they could be able to reach the scheduled time for the production. In order to make the process safer, the operators also decided to increase the rate of nitrogen flow in the reactor. However, without knowing, the operators were increasing the percentage of the floating powder over the hatch and thus creating a way for the explosion to occur in the process (Eckhoff, 2009). Unlike in the fault tree analysis, preliminary analysis method has majorly identified the cause of powder-air mix which was also largely supported by the other test trying to prove the hypothesis. On the other hand, preliminary risk analysis method has also failed to establish the real cause of electric spark since the two operators wore antistatic clothes and shoes and the theory of plastic static charges formation was also later disapproved as capable of causing sufficiently strong electrostatic charges.
Review of Good Practices and Safety Technologies
Over the years there has been developed a wide variety of approaches in dealing with organic powder explosion and majorly safety measures. Some of the common approaches that I will discuss include Minimum Ignition Energy Test (MIE), Explosibility Test - Group A/B Classification Test, and The Chilworth Technology Approach to Testing which has majorly been adopted in Germany and most of the EU countries (Covello & Merkhoher, 2013). The MIE test is mainly designed to assess the minimum energy of an electrostatic involved in every particular machine and the room condition supporting ignition. One of the advantages of the MIE test is that it can easily identify the lowest energy capable of igniting a dispersed dust thus limiting the chances of risk exposure. The limitation of the test is that it’s not so effective in assessing vapor and gaseous matters (Dunj? et al., 2010).
The Explosibility Test - Group A/B Classification Test is also one of the majorly applied risk assessment approaches where its major purpose is mainly to determine the flammability rate of the dust powder. The test is considered to be more effective during the operation of the major resin process (Ebadat, 2010). One of the main limitations of the test is that it’s not very effective while testing liquid materials. The ignition level of the material identified to be in Group B is also sometimes considered to be very high where it’s also considered as almost impossible to be found in the plant environment. With this in mind, the test can also be regarded to be a bit ineffective (Field, 2012).
The Chilworth technology is one of the widely used current advances in controlling dust powder explosions. In comparison to other tests, Chilworth technology tests are all based under Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) which are set of international standards in chemistry application (Urben, 2017). Chilworth tests have also been described to offer the general scope of the entire test i.e. the moisture content, material analysis, and any required preliminary thermal testing. Through the use of the technology, safety assessment and management routines are easily applied since the test has been specifically designed to offer effective and detailed data of each analysis (Cross & Farrer, 2012).
Recommendation of the Risk Treatment
Some of the basic parameters that should be utilized in the control of dust powder explosions include Explosive Property Evaluation, Dust Explosion Analysis, Thermal Stability Analysis, and Fire Analysis. Generally, these tests include the testing of physicochemical properties such as boiling point, melting point, oxidizing capability, decomposition behavior, vapor pressure, and flammability (Akhavan, 2011). The examination of the molecular composition is also one of the basic requirement every chemistry plant should be able to effectively apply especially to the most functional groups i.e. in consideration of explosive behavior. Dust cloud formation is also one of the basic factors that have been testified to be almost controllable. The formation of duct cloud normally occurs during charging of powders into reactors, blending, milling, and spray drying. It’s also considered that formation of the dust cloud can be regarded to also majorly occur in most unpredicted and/or abnormal states (Calow, 2009).
Through the analysis of the case study, the main recommendations focus will be to implement more effective measures for assessing oxygen concentration and the ignition temperature rate. One of the main tests that have been characterized to be effective in testing oxygen concentration is the Limiting Oxygen Concentration Test (LOC) (Eckhoff, 2016). The main scope of the test is to determine the level of oxygen concentration which can cause the ignition to occur. The normal oxygen concentration which is widely accepted is approximately 5% to 16%. Through the use of the test, the reliability of the entire system can be easily assessed and also identifying the required ambient temperature and pressure in conducting safe practice (Urben, 2017).
The other safety measure test that I will recommend in the approach of controlling generation electrostatic charges include the Layer Ignition Temperature (LIT) Test. The main purpose of the test is to define the minimum temperature in the furnace or reactor which can cause an ignition of the powder layer i.e. in about 5 mm in depth (Lees, 2012). Through this approach, this cause of ignition will be highly eliminated and operational risk assessment in controlling this kind of issue will also be effectively achieved. The test is also extended in checking the electrical reliability of various equipment’s putting into consideration the ignition capability. The only limitation of the test that it only offers an effective assessment of 5 mm layers only (Field, 2012).
In summary, non-routine accidents such as the dust powder explosion are considered as significantly destructive. As an operation manager, one should be able to identify major strategies in preventing and controlling various types of hazards in the workplace. The issue of dust powder explosion is one of the majorly highlighted issues in chemistry manufacturing department where there has been also a lot of engineering approaches which have been introduced to combat various types of issues which tend to occasionally arise in the process. Some of the main precautionary measures which according to OSHA should be effectively applied include the assessment of potential explosive properties of the materials, ignition points, and/or thermal stability (Bartknecht, 2012). Through the assessment and evaluation of the case study, my recommendations generally focus on eliminating on the ignition of the powder layer, which was considered as a source of the explosion in the case, and minimizing the oxygen concentration. With the effective application of the recommended approaches, I believe the company risk assessment and management in dust powder accidents will significantly improve both in the standard application and in precautionary strategies.
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