Manufacturing Metalwork

Tank explosion spurs CSB warning on hot work

Washington – The Chemical Safety Board is warning companies and workers alike about the dangers of conducting hot work – welding, riveting, flame cutting or other spark-producing activities – near tanks that contain biological or organic material.

On Aug. 26 – about one month after a tank explosion at an Omega Protein facility in Moss Point, MS, killed one worker and severely injured another – CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso issued a statement calling for combustible gas monitoring and careful hot work planning. The explosion mirrored a 2008 tank explosion that killed three workers in Wisconsin and a 2009 tank explosion that killed one worker in Oregon.

In each case, the fluid mixtures in the tanks were not believed to be hazardous for hot work. However, CSB laboratory testing found microbial activity in the samples, including volatile fatty acids that had collected in the slurry of water and fish matter at the Omega Protein plant.

“This tragedy underscores the extreme importance of careful hot work planning, hazard evaluation, and procedures for all storage tanks, whether or not flammable material is expected to be present,” Moure-Eraso said in the statement.