Federal agencies Chemical Manufacturing Video

CSB video highlights problems that led to 2013 blast

chemical explosion

Photo: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Washington – A new video from the Chemical Safety Board depicts the events leading to an explosion and fire that killed two workers and injured 167 others in June 2013 at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, LA.

The incident could have been prevented, CSB investigators said. The agency elaborated on its findings in a 12-minute video, titled Blocked In, which includes an animation of the explosion and interviews with investigators.

The explosion and fire occurred after the rupture of a heat exchanger containing flammable liquid propane. CSB found “many process safety management program deficiencies” at the facility, including the fact that the failed heat exchanger was isolated from its pressure relief valve.

Based on its investigation, CSB issued several recommendations for similar organizations:

  • Include workforce participation while conducting safety culture assessments.
  • Identify weaknesses in safety culture assessments and recommend specific actions for improvement.
  • Develop a data-driven program that tracks safety indicators.
  • Conduct process safety program assessments to determine the effectiveness of the facility’s programs.

“Our investigation on the explosion at Williams describes an ineffective process safety management program at the plant at the time of the incident,” CSB Chairperson Vanessa A. Sutherland said in a press release. “We urge other companies to incorporate our recommendations at their facilities and to assess the state of their cultures to promote safety at all organizational levels to prevent a similar accident.”

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