Unit IV Article Review: Propane Explosion in Danvers, MA
According to local law enforcement officials, on November 22, 2006, there was a propane explosion in a facility for storing coatings, adhesives, and inks (CAI) in Danvers, MA, located 30 km north of Boston. The fire and subsequent powerful explosion occurred in the period from 2.30 to 3.00 a.m. According to the article, a number of residential buildings near the storage, six businesses, and marina situated nearby were destroyed (Davis, Engel, Gavelli, Hinze, & Hansen, 2012, p. 825). The reason for the explosion was the vapor released from the huge tanks of propane. During the examination of gear of other cylinders operated at the plant, the commission did not find any extraneous liquids. The explosion might have been triggered by a natural increase in pressure in the container due to the heat in tanks. The tanks were filled with liquefied gasses, and their sensitivity was high. Another reason for the explosions could also be the tanks being overflowed with propane, what led to an increase in pressure above the permissible level. The propane explosion occurred because of a few reasons, but the accident could have been prevented if the appropriate measures had been taken on time.
After the tragedy, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) did the analysis where they identified the following causes of the incident. First, the company’s management did not make the analysis of the conditions of the tanks. Not all the processes and operations were under strict control, what formed the basis for the future explosion. The second cause is the unsealed tanks with the flamed liquid. CAI did not use any automation controls to ensure all the processes ran smoothly (Davis et al., 2012, p. 826). Moreover, company’s management did not provide the safeguards and alarm during the heating processes. The third issue is the absence of any ventilation because it would prevent the appearance of vapor, which caused the heating of the gas tanks. Another aspect that should be noted is that CAI management avoided all the process requirements and procedures to be written to ensure safety at the manufacturing facility. However, Danvers fire department is also responsible for that incident because official document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts regarding fire safety states that the local fire department should inspect the nearby companies and define whether they adhere to the safety regulations. Unfortunately, the head of the local fire department did not find any issues in the facility. Moreover, the last analysis was conducted in 2002, what means that the inspector did not assess the fire safety at the liquid gas storage for four years. Another issue is connected with permissions because the last inspection did not detect any problems with the expiration of permissions or the local fire department did not issue them to the CAI.
The fire was extinguished, and the first investigation of the accident happened two days after the explosion. The team of investigators from CSB arrived and reviewed the effects. They conducted the series of interviews with community members and local businesses, which were close to the facility. The aftermath was examined immediately after the shots were taken. The inspectors captured the territory of the facility and the nearest surrounding to assess the damage made by the explosion (Davis e al., 2012, p. 829). Later, the team of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrived at the place to clean the location and classify the hazards and gather the data about the air pollution level and the health condition of the workers at the CAI facility. However, the CSB team did the most work. During the next year, they conducted the interviews with the management of the factory, personnel as well as with the fire department commander to investigate the causes of the explosion. In 2007, they published their final report where they described the causes of the tragedy and provided their recommendations based on the interviews.
The laws violated by the accident include the General Laws of Massachusetts addressing flammable materials. As it was mentioned above, the local fire department and CAI did not adhere to the correct licensing and registration. Moreover, the Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (NFPA 30) and Standard for the Manufacture of Organic Coatings (NFPA 35) were violated. NFPA 30 treats the heating of flammable and gas liquids. CIA ignored it when kept the tanks inside the buildings without the needed equipment for the temperature regulation and overheating prevention. According to NFPA 35, the accident also emphasized the need to rethink the usage of gas tanks inside the buildings: they should be kept with the modern equipment or taken to the building exterior (Davis et al., 2012, p. 831). The case also involves the revision to Massachusetts Fire Safety Code (527 CMR) since the facility required new equipment and registrants to ensure the correct process of registration. Finally, International Fire Code also argues the need for the heating mediums and preventive methods to be used; thus, it was violated, too.
To prevent the accident, it was sufficient to check the tanks of gas and ensure the on-time certification and tanks examination. It was the responsibility of the local fire department. However, workers and decision-makers could have also prevented the emergency by doing the internal revision of tanks with gas and audit the preventive measures within the facility. The use of the tank should have been prohibited because the license for the exploitation had expired. There was no term of the next inspection, no persons responsible for the operative condition and safe operation of tanks, as well as those responsible for the supervision of the technical condition of the facility. In addition, the tank should have been subjected to the technical examination before the application and periodically during its functioning. The management should have provided the correct maintenance in accordance with the requirements of the Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (NFPA 30) and Standard for the Manufacture of Organic Coatings (NFPA 35) by ensuring security services, the state of serviceability, and creating the ventilation system to prevent the vapors appearing near the tanks (Davis et al., 2012, p. 828). The primary responsibility for the incident is the company’s since it did not organize a timely inspection of the tanks, as well as the local fire department, which did not carry out the examination and licensing of the property.
As for the surroundings, all the houses and businesses nearby were damaged. Ten people were injured with the shattered windows at the area of two miles around the facility. Twenty-ffour houses were almost destroyed, and six businesses that suffered significant damage. In addition, the marina and all boats also appeared in the blast radius. About 300 people were evacuated from the area, and large pieces of wood and debris covered an area of approximately 200 feet. The explosion scattered debris and caused damage to cars within the range of the explosion. However, no one was killed what can be explained by the time of the explosion, which occurred about three o’clock in the morning. In addition, the destruction of the gas pumps in the neighboring houses occurred, but it did not lead to an ignition. Almost all of the company’s buildings were destroyed.
To avoid such incidents, it is necessary to adhere to the general safety rules and laws regarding fire safety. Any hot works are prohibited from making closer than 100 m from the tank during the loading and unloading of liquefied natural gas. In order to prevent the heating of the tank, the management should ensure the installation of temperature sensors, which will cool the gas or start the process of regulation (Frist, 2014). During the cooling of the mouthpiece in the water, the person responsible for the tank safety should make sure that the valves are completely closed; otherwise, the possible accumulation of gas on the surface of the water will form an explosive mixture. The staff shall immediately notify the supervisor about a tank dirty with oil or fat and take measures to prevent accidental opening of the valve. A gas leak check should be carried out by the soap emulsion coating of possible leaks. The storehouse with tanks must be equipped with ventilation. Lighting of the storehouse must be conducted with the explosion-proof expertise. The staff should keep combustible materials and do the work related to the open flames within a radius of 25 meters from the storehouse with containers. The CSB also noted the weak state control over the equipment with flammable liquids, and its status as a high-risk object is not updated with the law. In addition, there should be a legal mechanism prompting the owner to conclude contracts for the maintenance of gas equipment (“Commentary,” n.d.). By doing so, the organizations providing this maintenance should have the right to do the analysis and be obliged to adhere to the regulations of the fire safety laws and requirements. In addition, the gas pollution control devices should be used within the storage. The absence of this equipment could be one of the factors that led to an explosion in Danvers. Moreover, the authorities should tighten the requirements for the operation, control and responsibility for all those who ensure the security of workers and businesses.
The explosion in Danvers, MA, at the CAI facility could have been prevented if the management of organization had ensured the proper examination of the tanks with liquid gas. The local fire department ignored the compliance procedures and did not inspect the facility. The common mistake made by organizations is the neglect of the general safety rules at the facilities to save money. However, the state laws also did not provide the correct the punishment for the parties that violated the Massachusetts Fire Safety Code (527 CMR) or Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (NFPA 30), what leaves the room for the improvement in the field of the law.