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Chemical Safety Board to chemical facilities: Remember cold-weather best practices

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Photo: CSB

Washington — Alarmed by a recent surge of events involving the incidental release of chemicals during cold weather, the Chemical Safety Board is reminding facility operators of process safety management best practices for wintertime operations.

Freezing and expansion of water can crack or break pipes, damage equipment, or lead to instrumentation failure. Additionally, cold temperatures can trigger the formation of a hydrate, a chemical combination of water and a compound that may expand or block process piping.

CSB recommendations for winterization include:

  • Effectively identify and address the risk of freeze-related hazards to piping and process equipment through process hazard analyses, management of change evaluations, pre-startup safety reviews and operating procedures.
  • Create and implement a winterization checklist to ensure plant and process systems are ready for cold weather.
  • Establish a formal, written freeze protection program.
  • Survey piping systems for dead-legs (sections that have no flow) and ensure they’re properly isolated, removed or winterized.
  • Systematically review process units, including infrequently used piping and equipment, to identify and mitigate freezing hazards.

CSB data shows that 36 incidents related to the agency’s accidental release reporting rule were recorded during the first three months of fiscal year 2023, including eight during a Christmas holiday weekend that saw record-low temperatures across much of the nation. 

The agency notes that 30 combined reportable events – incidental chemical releases resulting in a fatality, a serious injury and/or significant property damage – were observed during the first quarter of FY 2021 and FY 2022.

“Companies need to heighten their focus on safe operations and recognize that taking important precautionary actions, like winterization, can help prevent major chemical accidents,” CSB Chair Steve Owens said in a press release.

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