(Washington, DC - May 23, 2002) - The molten plastic that was involved in last year's fatal accident at the former BP Amoco plant in Augusta, Ga., was known by company researchers to undergo a gas-producing reaction at high temperatures, but the resulting dangers to workers were not adequately recognized or controlled in the plant design or operating procedures, federal accident investigators said today.
Pressurized gas led to the deaths of three BP Amoco workers who were preparing to clean a plugged waste plastic vessel on the morning of March 13, 2001.
Those were among the conclusions released today by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). CSB recommended that Solvay Advanced Polymers, formerly BP Amoco, develop procedures to identify and control such hazards, and that those procedures be shared with its workforce.
"All of the recommendations we are announcing today are related to safety improvements that might have prevented the tragedy from occurring in the first place," said Board Member Dr. Isadore (Irv) Rosenthal at a press conference in Augusta today.
Safety Recommendations to Former BP Amoco Plant In addition to developing procedures to identify and control hazards from unintended chemical reactions, CSB recommended that Solvay's Augusta facility (former BP Amoco) conduct periodic management reviews of close call incidents.
In previous years, the report finds, large lumps of molten plastic had burst and hurtled considerable distances within the plant. Had these incidents been investigated, they may have shown that the molten material was continuing to react and decompose, creating gas and pressure, which CSB said caused the March 2001 fatal accident.
CSB also recommended that the facility revise a program called Control of Hazardous Energy (also known as "lock out-tag out") to make sure that equipment is proven safe prior to opening for maintenance. If verification of equipment depressuring cannot be assured, Rosenthal said, workers should consult higher levels of management to determine safe opening conditions before proceeding.
"We believe that the tragedy could have been prevented had the recommendations we are announcing today been in place," said Stephen Selk, CSB's lead investigator of the BP Amoco accident. "We have been charged with investigating accidents such as the one that occurred here in Augusta, to determine the root causes and make recommendations that, if followed, will prevent future accidents."
Safety Recommendations to Solvay Polymers L.L.C. The second set of recommendations from the CSB investigation was made to Solvay Advanced Polymers, L.L.C. CSB recommends that Solvay revise the Material Safety Data Sheet for Amodel to warn of the hazards of accumulating large masses of molten polymer, as occurred at the BP Amoco plant last March, and communicate those changes to customers who may retain inventories of this product.
"We certainly don't want to see a repeat of this accident elsewhere in the industry because of a lack of communication concerning chemical hazards," Rosenthal said, adding that "the people handling these chemicals need as much information as is available, to work in the safest way possible."
In addition, CSB recommended that reactive hazards be identified and evaluated during product research and development, and during new chemical process design, and that the hazards be reviewed with the workforce.