Two explosions at a port containing flammable and hazardous chemicals killed approximately 147 people on 12 August 2015. Investigations into the cause of the blast continue, however BBC reported that calcium carbide may have been exposed to water that was being used to control a blaze, creating a high explosive gas blast which may have then detonated other chemicals.
It has been reported that authorities found 3 waste water discharge monitoring stations in the evacuated area which revealed excessive levels of cyanide. One station recorded a level that was more than 27 times the standard limit. At least 1 employee of Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics has been arrested.
Ensure there is no risk of hazardous substances reacting to cause an explosion. Enforce strict policies monitoring the levels of such substances.
Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion
The 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in West Virginia, US, lead to the deaths of 29 workers. David Hughart, a former executive of Massey Energy pleaded guilty to concealing safety violations from federal inspectors and was sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison and 3 years of supervised release for all of the offences linked to the disaster.
“The basic mechanics of the explosion were aided by the mine’s poor ventilation, inoperable sprinklers, worn and unmaintained equipment, and inadequate rock dusting. These conditions, in turn, were the product of the criminal corporate culture at Massey Energy, which placed production ahead of miners’ health and safety.”
A focus on critical risks and their management is required to avoid catastrophic disasters.
Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy (30 October 2012)
A New Zealand underground coal mine on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island exploded in November 2010, killing 29 men immediately or shortly afterwards from the blast or toxic atmosphere.
“The company did not have a clear strategy from the board that set out its vision, objectives and targets for health and safety management... The Pike health and safety management system was never audited internally or externally. If it had been, deficiencies would have been identified, including the gap between the standards and procedures laid down in the Pike documents, and the actual mine practices.” (Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy, 2012)
Audit systems to ensure they are effective.
Department of Workplace Health and Safety v Allscaff Systems and Ralph Michael Smith 2015
A swing stage platform and associated rigging components detached, falling 26 levels from the side of a high-rise building under construction on Australia’s Gold Coast, leading to the death of two employees working on the work platform.
““The swing stage suspension system installed was not consistent with either the information contained in the manufacturer’s documentation nor the relevant Australian standards. In short, the gross deficiencies identified shows that the method of construction – rather, the method of connection between the counterweight box and the swing stage suspension needles was woefully inadequate.”” (Department of Workplace Health and Safety
In light of Allscaff Systems’ “gross negligence and foolishness”, it was fined $700,000. The Allscaff officer, Mr Smith, received a suspended sentence of 12 months imprisonment.
Identify all standards relevant to your operations and apply them.
Xiaojiawan coal mine disaster
On 29 August 2012, a gas explosion inside a coal mine in the Sichuan area killed 45 workers. A further 54 were injured. The Government had announced in May 2012 that it would shut down 625 coal mines by the end of the year, in an attempt to minimise the dangerous conditions faced across the country. According to the director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, the carbon monoxide levels in the tunnel where the miners were trapped was high and the roof was collapsing. The rescue was therefore very difficult.
Design and implement ventilation systems that will ensure the health and safety of workers, particularly in emergency evacuations.
Building collapse in central London
A worker died in April 2014 when a minidigger fell from the 2nd floor of a 6-storey building in Mayfair, London to the 1” floor below. The building was undergoing demolition work to be converted into residential property when a mini-digger demolishing a concrete floor slab of approximately 12 square metres fell, crushing the worker. The operator of the mini-digger was also taken to hospital with minor injuries.
Consider design of operations where there is interaction between different work crews and coordinate activities.
Consider effective use of exclusion zones.