The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Ethanol Tank Farm Fire

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, February 05, 2013

An ethanol storage tank fire at this plant in Ourinhos, Brazil is believed to have been started by a lightning strike. The tank contained five million liters of ethanol.

Almost 150 men from the plant's fire brigade with the support of the local Fire Department took almost 48 hours to bring the fire under control.

They used more than 10 million gallons of water, which equals one day of water consumption of a city with 100,000 inhabitants.

According to plant management, there are dozens of lightning protection towers in the area of the tank farm but the tank was struck during a heavy rain that hit the city last Sunday.

Clearing Snow from Public Paths is a Good Idea

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With the recent snow across the UK, good neighborly people should be reassured that there is no legal risk for clearing snow from public paths outside your home; providing you take sensible precautions that most folks would find "reasonable".

Being told that you shouldn't be clearing up snow for 'health and safety reasons' is a load of rubbish!

There is really no need to fear being sued if somebody fell on snow that had not been swept up.

If you are actively making things better rather than making a situation worse, it is going to be very difficult for someone to successfully bring a case against you.

So clearing the snow is simply one demonstration of our community-spiritedness across the UK.

Clearing a path for the postman, or doing our neighbours' drives when we do our own should not be stopped for spurious "health and safety" reasons - no such reasons exist.

The Government even published the Snow Code a couple of years ago to reassure people that they need not be put off clearing paths because they're afraid someone will get injured.

It said: "Don't believe the myths - it's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries if you have cleared the path carefully."

So "health and safety" is not a barrier to doing the neighbourly thing, in fact just the opposite!

With the snow now falling all across the UK, everyone can do their bit. Even small efforts can make a big difference.

Lighting is a Natural Hazard

Graham Marshall - Saturday, November 24, 2012

The natural hazard presented by lightning was highlighted recently when a direct strike at Venezuela's 146,000-barrels-per-day El Palito refinery caused a blast and subsequent fire in a large tank farm at the site.

The electrical storm set fire to two naphtha storage tanks at El Palito in central Venezuela.

Officials said the fire was some distance from production units at El Palito. But fire fighters battled blazes in storage tanks there for days before bringing them under control.

It's been a very bad month for President Hugo Chavez and the people of Venezuela who are struggling under his rule as another disaster at Amuay, the South American country's biggest oil refinery, occurred when a gas leak caused an explosion that killed 42 people, injured dozens and damaged 1,600 homes.


Lightning strike causes ship blast - 5 dead on Methanol Tanker

Graham Marshall - Thursday, August 09, 2012

The dangers posed by "natural hazards" such as lightning have been highlighted by a shipping disaster in Malaysia.

Five sea-farers are feared dead after Malaysian authorities found the bodies of two more crew members missing after the fiery explosion of a chemical tanker.

The catastrophic disaster unfolded last week as the Motor Vessel (MV) Bunga Alpinia was being loaded with Methanol on the island of Labuan.

The port of Labuan is in the South China Sea off the coast of the Sarawak in Borneo.

Although still investigating the cause of the fire, Local police have said they suspect a lightning strike triggered the four huge blasts aboard the ship.

The initial fire broke out during a thunderstorm as the ship was docked at a methanol terminal run by national energy firm Petronas.

The blasts aboard the chemical tanker triggered a raging inferno that took fire fighters 30 hours to bring under control.

The 38,000-ton ship suffered severe damage.

The accident forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of factory workers at Labuan until the ship could be towed away from the loading dock and out to sea.

The tanker vessel had 29 people on board at the time of the disaster.  23 were Malaysian nationals and the remaining six were Filipinos.

Twenty-four of the crew were quickly rescued, but rescue boats were combing the area near the tanker for the remaining five crew members. Fire fighters have also boarded the smoldering vessel to search for survivors.

According to Malaysian media reports, the vessel is owned by shipping firm MISC, a subsidiary of Petronas.

Managing Risk When Working Alone

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Because Western Australia covers such a big area, there are many times each day where a person could work alone in a remote or relatively isolated location.

Some examples are:

• Farm workers and foresters; 

• Local or State Government employees;

• Vermin and pest controllers;

• Geologists; and

• Hunters.

Workers may also do their jobs alone in a Perth-metropolitan area. For example, a worker is alone when he or she: 

• Works in a depot or business when there are no other workers;

• Works in a workplace when everyone else has gone home;

• Examines large structures, such as cranes, when there is no-one else in the vicinity;

• Undertakes maintenance or construction work in vacant premises;

• Cleans offices in high rise buildings when there is no-one else in the area being cleaned;

• Is called out at night to check on security alarms or faults in a business premises that is closed;

• Works on his or her own as a ranger in parkland and reserves; and

• Inspects vacant  land  for the presence of noxious weeds when landowners are not present.

In most cases the risk associated with solo-work is increased because of emergency situations which may arise due to the sudden onset of a medical condition, accidental work-related injury or disease, attack by an animal, exposure to the elements, or by becoming stranded without food or water.

The consequences may be very serious and the injury or disease may be fatal.

In response to the heightened risk, the Government of WA has developed this Guidance Note which explains the OSH laws that apply to people who work alone.

It covers general requirements in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and specific regulatory requirements where they exist.

Included here, you will also find a completed JSA that addresses the risk associated with working in remote locations.


Tips for Working on Hot Days

Graham Marshall - Friday, June 01, 2012

With the onset of summer across the northern hemisphere, today is a timely date to remind all workers about the dangers associated with working in the heat.

Below is an image showing the heat index which highlights how the air temperature can feel when consideration is also given to the ambient humidity.

As the index shows, the working temperature can feel a lot hotter than the thermometre may be showing if you're working on a humid day.

In response to high temperatures, always always use the hierarchy of control to select the best possible control mechanisms when working outdoors on hot days.  These controls include:

+  Eliminate the hazard by canceling the work or re-scheduling to a cooler time of day (or cooler season);

+  Substitute the work by doing something else indoors in a cooler environment;

+  Engineer the environment to provide shade, air-moving fans or cooler units;

+  Administrate to ensure that plenty of water is drunk and regular rest breaks are taken in a cool spot;

+  Protect yourself with PPE using wide brimmed hats, long sleaved shirt and long pants, and sub block cream.







How to survive an earthquake

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 05, 2012

I received this post as an email from my brother who is employed in the Hampshire Fire Service (UK).  The information in this post will save lives in an earthquake.

Doug Copp is the the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI ), the world's most experienced rescue team.

According to Doug Copp, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them - NOT under them.

This space is what  Doug Copp calls the 'triangle of life'.

The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured.


1)      Most everyone who simply 'ducks and covers' when building collapse are crushed to death.  People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2)      Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the foetal position. You should too in an earthquake.  It is a natural safety/survival instinct.  You can survive in a smaller void.  Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a bed, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3)      Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake.  Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake.  If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight.  Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4)      If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed.  A safe void will exist around the bed.  Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5)      If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the foetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.


6)      Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed.  How?  If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above.  If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway.  In either case, you will be killed!

7)      Never go to the stairs.  The stairs have a different 'moment of frequency' (they swing separately from the main part of the building).  The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads - horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs.  The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged.  Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8)      Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible - It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior.  The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9)      People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway.  The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles.  They were all killed.  They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles.  Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them.  All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10)     I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.

Spread the word and save someone's life...

Danger of Heat Waves

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 03, 2012

As we enter February in Australia, with the mercury rising to its summer high point; it is worth considering how high ambient temperature is probably the most under-rated natural hazard in both Australia and the USA.

Unlike "active" natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, tornados and lightning storms, heat-waves are seen as simply "passive" weather.

But research (Coates, 1996; and Andrews, 1994) clearly shows that heat waves kill more people than any other natural hazard experienced in Australia.

In the period from 1803 (when Australian records began) to 1992, at least 4287 people died as a direct result of heat waves.

That figure is almost twice the number of deaths attributed to either cyclones or floods over the same time period.

In the USA, heat waves are the second ranked cause of deaths resulting from a natural hazard, killing more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning and floods combined.

The impact of heat waves extends further than just death rates. High temperatures are also associated with the following problems:

· Increased hospital admissions relating to heat stress, dehydration, or as a result of heat exacerbating existing conditions;

· Increased rates of certain crimes particularly those related to aggressive behaviour such as homicide;

· Increased number of work-related accidents and reduced work productivity; and

· Decreased sports performance.

Summer heat waves can also cause significant economic losses through livestock/crop losses and damage to roads, railways, bridges, power reticulation infrastructure and electrical equipment.

For people, the high ambient temperatures associated with heat waves make us feel uncomfortable as our bodies struggle to keep our inner body temperature close to 37ºC.

The body responds to increasing heat stress progressively through three stages:

1.  Heat cramps - muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe stage they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
2.  Heat exhaustion - typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing a decrease of flow to the vital organs. This results in mild shock with symptoms of cold, clammy and pale skin, together with fainting and vomiting. If not treated the victim may suffer heat stroke.
3.  Heat stroke - is life threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature may exceed 40.6ºC potentially causing brain damage and death if the body is not cooled quickly.

As with the management of any hazard, the use of a range of simple controls measures can ensure people's safety in hot conditions. 

Try these tips next time you're hot:

Eliminate hard physical activity during periods of high temperatures;

Substitute the location of work - move indoors or change the time of the activity to a cooler part of the day;

Engineer the location  to control heat using artificial shade, ventilation or air conditioning systems; 

Administration - ensure to drink plenty of water and pace work according to the physical demands and temperature; and

PPE - be sun smart with long pants and long-sleaved shirt, wide brimmed hat and sub-bloc.



Why not Minot?

Graham Marshall - Monday, December 05, 2011

It's freezing is the reason!  Well that's what the T-shirts say at the airport when you arrive here in Minot.

With the mercury hitting a low of minus 23 Centigrade (-9F) overnight, it is certainly a cold time to be working in the oilfield in North Dakota.

And it's not just the hazard of the cold, rather, it's the wind that makes things icy and uncomfortable.

But with enough clothes and a positive attitude, the work gets done.

For my sins, I'm in ND and busy writing procedures for flow-back operations such as spotting, anchoring, function testing and igniting temporary flare stacks such as the one shown parked-up in the snow here.

Make sure to stay warm if you're working the oil patch in ND today.

Heat Stress Increases in Spring-Time

Graham Marshall - Thursday, September 01, 2011
The 1st day of September marks the start of spring down here in the southern hemisphere.

We also open the highest risk time period for exposure to the harmful UV radiation from sunlight.
The risk of exposure to the skin cancer-causing UV increases across Australia, NZ and South Africa
 at this time of year.

Keep your cool as the temperature rises this spring and summer.

Reducing the skin cancer risk is pretty straight forward using a range of positive sun-smart behaviours that everyone can get right.

If it's hot and sunny where you're working or playing outside today, positive sun smart behaviours include the following actions:

  • Cover-up with long a sleeve shirt and long pants and a wide-brimmed hat;
  • Use SPF 30 sun-block on exposed parts of the body;
  • Wear sun-glasses;
  • If possible, avoid working or playing outdoors in the hottest part of the day;
  • Drink enough water for hydration purposes; and
  • Take regular rest-breaks in a shady area.

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