Safety Board to Investigate Goodyear Explosion
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has announced that it is proceeding with an investigation into the causes of an explosion that occurred in June at a Goodyear rubber manufacturing facility in Houston, Texas. One employee was killed in the incident and several injured, including contract workers who were exposed to hazardous anhydrous ammonia. CSB investigators have already carried out a fortnight of visits to the plant to conduct interviews and accumulate other evidence.
The June 11 accident occurred during a maintenance operation on a heat exchanger that used pressurised liquid ammonia to cool chemicals used in the production of synthetic rubber. The day prior to the accident, the process was shut down for cleaning. During the shutdown, a valve designed to prevent excessive pressure was closed. On the morning of the accident, an operator used steam to clean out process piping, the end result being a build up of pressure in the heat exchanger, with catastrophic consequences.
An operations supervisor not involved in the maintenance work, 55-year-old Gloria McInnis, was killed by the explosion. Her body, which was covered with explosion debris, was not discovered until several hours after the emergency had been declared over.
“This tragic accident is but the latest example of the destruction that can result from a lack of effective pressure relief systems and practices,” said CSB chairman John Bresland, who visited the accident site on June 12. “Companies should be vigilant to ensure that pressure-relief systems are adequate and are properly maintained and operated to continuously protect equipment from over-pressure.”
Bresland said the CSB investigation would likely focus on Goodyear’s practices for managing, inspecting, and maintaining relief systems; training operators; and accounting for workers during emergencies. A case study report is expected at the end of the year.