CSB Releases New Chemical Incident Data and Calls for Increased Attention to Process Safety Management During Winter Period

 

 

Washington D.C. December 28, 2022 – Today, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released data on chemical incidents reported under the CSB’s “Accidental Release Reporting Rule” during the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 (October-December 2022). The data shows a significant uptick in reportable events during the quarter, as well as an extremely high number of serious events this past weekend which coincides with cold temperatures across the U.S.

From October 1, 2022, through December 26, 2022, 36 events were reported to the CSB, 8 of which occurred this past holiday weekend. This is more than double the number of events for the first three months of the previous two fiscal years – October-December of 2021 (16 events) and 2020 (14 events).  Reportable events involve an accidental chemical release resulting in a fatality, serious injury, and/or substantial property damage.

CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “With record low temperatures across much of the country this past weekend, the CSB saw an unprecedented uptick in reportable events. This may be partly due to the unique safety challenges posed by cold weather, but regardless, companies need to heighten their focus on safe operations and recognize  that taking important precautionary actions, like winterization, can help  prevent major chemical accidents.”

Chemical facilities need to be prepared for safety challenges posed by cold weather.  Water freezing and expanding can crack or break pipes, damage equipment or cause instrumentation to fail.  

More subtle hazards may also exist, such as the formation of a hydrate, where water chemically combines with a compound, which can also expand and block process piping. Facilities’ process safety management programs, including hazard reviews, management of change (MOC) evaluations, pre-startup safety reviews, and operating procedures, should reflect a year-round focus on how low temperatures may affect piping and other equipment and instrumentation. 

CSB Investigations Relevant to Winterization 

Valero Refinery Propane Fire

Bethlehem Steel Corporation Gas Condensate Fire

CSB Videos Relevant to Winterization

Fire from Ice 

Winterization Safety Message 

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating incidents and hazards that result, or may result, in the catastrophic release of extremely hazardous substances. The agency’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.

The agency's board members are appointed by the president subject to Senate confirmation. The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.

Please visit our website, www.csb.gov. For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at Hillary.Cohen@csb.gov

 

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