The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Hot Work on Tanks and Containers

Graham Marshall - Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hot working involves all jobs that create ignition sources and these include flames, sparks, welding flash, and electrical arcs.

History demonstrates that there is a particularly high risk of uncontrolled fire or explosion when undertaking hot work on vessels, tanks or containers that contain, or have contained, flammable or combustible hazardous substances.

Such hazardous substances include petrol or diesel, thinners, engine oil, anti-freeze, and solvents.

These hazardous substances are in common use in many industries including manufacturing, mining, engineering, vehicle servicing, energy and utilities and farming.

In all cases, although tanks or containers may appear to be empty, sufficient residue may exist in seams, creases or rust-scale within the container leading to vapours at explosive levels.

Hot work may ignite the vapour contents leading to high-energy explosive releases.

In order to prevent these types of incidents, managers and workers should always ensure that hot work on vessels, tanks, or containers is undertaken using the most appropriate hazard and risk management controls.

These controls include:

1. Eliminating hot work which may not actually be necessary;

2. Substitution of safer alternatives to hot work, including disposal of containers rather than their repair;

3. The use of cold-cutting or cold repair methods;

4. Using specialist contractors who know how to manage the risks involved in hot work;

5. Using engineered controls involving cleaning, purging and inerting prior to hot working;

6. Isolating tanks being worked on from other tanks or vessels that may still contain vapour at the LEL;

7. Ensuring that employees performing hot work are competent to undertake the job safely;

8. Ensuring that an appropriate gas testing and monitoring regime is in place prior to any hot work; and

9. Ensuring that appropriate administrative controls are in place prior to undertaking hot work on tanks which may include a risk assessment, a permit to work and/or a Job Safety Analysis.

A JSA for generic "hot work" can be found by clicking here.

More detailed information is contained in the the UK HSE Code of Practice  entitled  Safe Maintenance, Repair and Cleaning Procedures, Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (2002).

Bacton Gas Terminal Explosion Investigation

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, August 16, 2011
A Court in the UK has heard that the fire and explosion at the Bacton Gas Terminal in 2008 occurred as a result of safety, environmental control and pollution-prevention failures.

Shell UK, the operator of the gas terminal has recently been fined GBP 1 Million with a further GBP 243,000 in costs.

In Court, management at the plant were said to be "sleepwalking into danger", with numerous problems being brought to their attention by employees.

The explosion was found to have occurred when hydrocarbon condensate  leaked into the terminal's water treatment plant when a corroded metal separator vessel failed.

The condensate and water mixture then entered a concrete storage tank where it was heated.

The heating elements within the tank were exposed, raising the surface temperature significantly and causing the explosion.

The investigation found that the operator was aware key components had been failing yet there was no appreciation of the potential for an incident to happen.

The fact that no one was killed was put down to luck as the explosion occurred during a crew change. 

The Court heard that up to ten individuals could have died had the explosion occurred shortly earlier than it did.

For further information on the explosion and subsequent court case, simply click here.

Major Incident Investigation Board

Graham Marshall - Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) has made its report to the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) following the fire and explosion at the Buncefield Terminal occurring there in December 2005.

The report includes a number of recommendations associated with the design and operation of in-scope fuel storage tanks .

The MIIB report presents the current methods and technologies used by industry for implementing tank gauging systems and level detection systems and it highlights their shortcomings.

The report describes and discusses the evolving technology and concepts that may be used on fuel storage sites in the future.

To read the report, simply click here.

Remembering Piper Alpha

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Today marks the 23rd Anniversary of an explosion and resulting fire which destroyed Piper Alpha on July 6th, 1988, killing 167 men. 

To date it is the world’s worst offshore oil disaster.

Please take a moment to reflect on the names of the men lost in the disaster (see below) and share a safety moment with younger colleagues working in the oil-patch who may have no memory or knowledge about Piper Alpha.

To view a news story from those terrible times click here.

Lest We Forget

Robert McIntosh ADAMS, Rigger
George Alexander J ANDERSON, Baker
Ian Geddes ANDERSON, Dual Service Operator
John ANDERSON, Catering Manager
Mark David ASHTON, Trainee Technician/Cleaner
Wilson Crawford A BAIN, Valve Technician
Barry Charles BARBER, Diving Consultant
Craig Alexander BARCLAY, Welder
Alan BARR, Electrical Technician
Brian Philip BATCHELOR, Seaman
Amabile Alexander BORG, Non-Destructive Tester
Hugh Wallace BRACKENRIDGE, Roustabout
Alexander Ross Colvin BREMNER, Production Operator
Eric Roland Paul BRIANCHON, Technician
Hugh BRISTON, Scaffolder
Henry BROWN, Welder
Stephen BROWN, Assistant Chef/Baker
Gordon Craib BRUCE, Helicopter Landing Officer
James BRUCE, Logger
Carl William BUSSE, Directional Drilling Supervisor
David CAMPBELL, Cleaner
David Allen CAMPBELL, Scaffolder
Alexander Watt CARGILL, Electrician
Robert CARROLL, Safety Operator
Alan CARTER, Lead Production Operator
Robert CLELAND, Derrickman
Stephen Colin COLE, Radio Officer
Hugh CONNOR, Instrument Technician/Lecturer
John Edward Sherry COOKE, Plater
John Thomas COOPER, Instrument Technician
William Nunn COUTTS, Chef
William John COWIE, Steward
Michael John COX, Scaffolder
Alan Irvin CRADDOCK, Drilling Supervisor
Edward John CROWDEN, Electrical Technician
Bernard CURTIS, Deputy Production Superintendent
Jose Hipolito DA SILVA, Steward
John Stephen DAWSON, Telecom Engineer
Eric DEVERELL, Production Clerk
Alexander DUNCAN, Steward
Charles Edward DUNCAN, Floorman
Eric DUNCAN, Drilling Materials Man
John DUNCAN, Engineer
Thomas Irvine DUNCAN, Roustabout
William David DUNCAN, Crane Operator
David Alan ELLIS, Steward
Douglas Newlands FINDLAY, Supervisor Mechanic
Harold Edward George FLOOK, Production Operator
George FOWLER, Electrical Technician
Alexander Park FREW, Plater
Samuel Queen GALLACHER, Pipe Fitter
Miguel GALVEZ-ESTEVEZ, Assistant Chef
Ernest GIBSON, Mud Engineer
Albert Stuart GILL, Roustabout
Ian GILLANDERS, Instrument Pipe Fitter
Kevin Barry GILLIGAN, Steward
Shaun GLENDINNING, Painter
John Edward Thomas GOLDTHORP, Motorman
Stephen Robert GOODWIN, Geologist
James Edward Gray GORDON, Floorman
David Lee GORMAN, Safety Operator
Kenneth GRAHAM, Mechanical Technician
Peter John GRANT, Production Operator
Cyril James GRAY, Safety Operator
Harold Eugene Joseph GREEN, Rigger
Michael John GROVES, Production Operator
John HACKETT, Electrical Technician
Ian HAY, Steward
Thomas Albert HAYES, Rigging Supervisor
James HEGGIE, Production Services Superintendent
David William HENDERSON, Lead Floorman
Philip Robert HOUSTON, Geologist
Duncan JENNINGS, Geologist
Jeffrey Grant JONES, Assistant Driller
Christopher KAVANAGH, Plater
William Howat KELLY, Electrical Technician
John Brian KIRBY, Production Operator
Stuart Gordon Charles KNOX, Roustabout
Alexander Rodger LAING, Steward
Terence Michael LARGUE, Scaffolder
Graham LAWRIE, Roustabout
Findlay Wallace LEGGAT, Scaffolder
Brian LITHGOW, Photographic Technician
Robert Rodger LITTLEJOHN, Pipe Fitter
Martin George LONGSTAFFE, Logger
William Raymond MAHONEY, Steward
John Morrison MARTIN, Rigger
Sidney Ian McBOYLE, Motorman
Robert Borland McCALL, Chief Electrician
James McCULLOCH, HVAC Technician
Alistair James McDONALD, Mechanical Technician
Alexander McELWEE, Plater
Thomas O’Neil McEWAN, Electrical Chargehand
William George McGREGOR, Leading Steward
Frederick Thomas Summers McGURK, Rigger
William Hugh McINTOSH, Floorman
Gordon McKAY, Valve Technician
Charles Edward McLAUGHLIN, Electrician
Neil Stuart Ross McLEOD, Quality Assurance Inspector
Francis McPAKE, Steel Erector/Rigger
David Allison McWHINNIE, Production Operator
Dugald McLean McWILLIAMS, Welder
Carl MEARNS, Rigger
Derek Klement Michael MILLAR, Supervisor
Alan David MILLER, Industrial Chemist
Frank MILLER, Scaffolder
John Hector MOLLOY, Engineer
Leslie James MORRIS, Platform Superintendent
Bruce Alexander Ferguson MUNRO, Floorman
George Fagan MURRAY, Steward
James Cowie NIVEN, Roustabout
Graham Sim NOBLE, Materials Man
Michael O’SHEA, Electrician
Robert Rennie PEARSTON, Mechanic
Ian PIPER, Motorman
Wasyl POCHRYBNIAK, Lead Roustabout
Raymond Leslie PRICE, Production Operator
Neil PYMAN, Engineer
Terence Stephen QUINN, Service Engineer
William Wallace RAEBURN, Maintenance Controller
Donald REID, Chargehand Engineer
Robert Welsh REID, Roustabout
Gordon MacAlonan RENNIE, Process Operator
Robert Miller RICHARD, Production Operator
Alan RIDDOCH, Steward
Adrian Peter ROBERTS, Roughneck
Alexander James ROBERTSON, Lead Production Technician
Donald Nicholson ROBERTSON, Mechanical Technician
Gary ROSS, Roustabout
Michael Hector RYAN, Roustabout
Stanley SANGSTER, Foreman Scaffolder
James John Dearn SAVAGE, Electrical Technician
Michael Hugh Brodie SCORGIE, Lead Foreman
William Alexander SCORGIE, Pipe Fitter
John Francis SCOTT, Scaffolder
Colin Denis SEATON, Offshore Installation Manager
Robert Hendry SELBIE, Turbo Drill Engineer
Michael Jeffrey SERINK, Logger
Michael Bernard SHORT, Foreman Rigger
Richard Valentine SKINNER, Assistant Driller
William Hamilton SMITH, Maintenance Lead Hand
James SPEIRS, Mechanical Technician
Kenneth Stuart STEPHENSON, Rigger
Thomas Cunningham Boswell STIRLING, Cleaner
Malcolm John STOREY, Seaman
James Campbell STOTT, Plumber
Jurgen Tilo STWERKA, Research Chemist
Stuart Douglas SUTHERLAND, Student/Cleaner
Terrence John SUTTON, Mechanical Fitter
Alexander Ronald TAYLOR, Roustabout
Alistair Adam THOMPSON, Telecom Engineer
Robert Argo VERNON, Production Operator
John Edward WAKEFIELD, Instrument Technician
Michael Andrew WALKER, Technician
Bryan Thomas WARD, Rigger
Gareth Hopson WATKIN, Offshore Medical Attendant
Francis John WATSON Head Chef
Alexander WHIBLEY, Roustabout
Kevan Dennis WHITE, Maintenance Supervisor
Robert WHITELEY, Roustabout
Graham Gill WHYTE, Aerial Rigger
James Gilbert WHYTE, Aerial Rigger
Alan WICKS, Safety Supervisor
Paul Charles Ferguson WILLIAMSON, Floorman
David WISER, Survey Technician
John Richard WOODCOCK, Technical Clerk

UK HSE Published Interim Report on Japanese Nuclear Disaster

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An evaluation of of the nuclear disaster in Japan concludes that lessons should be learnt for nuclear power stations in the UK.

The report identifies 25 recommended areas for review to determine if further improvements to safety in the UK nuclear industry are possible.

The recommendations include:

  • Reviews of the layout of UK power plants;
  • Emergency response arrangements;
  • Dealing with prolonged power outages; and
  • The risks associated with flooding.

Mike Weightman, executive head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said:

"The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima - the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami - are not credible in the UK.

We are 1,000 miles from the nearest fault line and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards. Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different to the type at the Fukushima plant.

"But we are not complacent. No matter what the differences are, and how high the standard of design and subsequent operation of the nuclear facilities here in the UK, the quest for improvement must never stop. Seeking to learn from events, and from new knowledge, both nationally and internationally, must continue to be a fundamental feature of the safety culture of the UK nuclear industry".

The interem report published today was requested by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The interim report can be read by clicking here.
The full, more comprehensive report will be published in September.

What is a “Confined Space”?

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 28, 2011

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines, in its general industry rule, a confined space as having three attributes:

  1. Large enough to enter and perform work;
  2.  Limited access and egress; and
  3. Not designed for continuous occupancy.

Australian Standard (AS2865-2001) defines a confined space as:

“An enclosed or partially enclosed space that is at atmospheric pressure during occupancy and is not intended or designed primarily as a place of work; and

a)                 Is liable at any time to:

i. Have an atmosphere which contains potentially harmful levels of contaminant;

ii. Have an oxygen deficiency or excess; or

iii. Cause engulfment; and

b)           Could have restricted means for entry and exit.

The United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) says:

It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e.g., lack of oxygen)”.

Obvious confined spaces include:

»           Tanks;

»           Stacks;

»           Tunnels; and

»           Trenches.

Some less obvious confined spaces include:

»           Rooms which are inadequately ventilated;

»           Shrouded columns or vessels which render them ‘air tight’;

»           The roof of floating roof tanks; and

»           Rooms and areas that become confined spaces by virtue of the activities being undertaken.

In all cases, confined spaces are particularly dangerous because they may frequently:

»           Contain or have the potential to contain an hazardous atmosphere;

»           Contain a material that has the potential for engulfing the work party;

»           Have an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped; or

»           Contain other recognized serious safety or health hazards.

Because confined space work can be so dangerous, there are a number of safety-critical controls that need to be applied to all confined space entry activities.  The safety-critical controls are highlighted below:

  1. Identify the hazards using the Think 6, Look 6 process;
  1. Once hazards are identified, search for ways of eliminating or isolating them;
  1.  In addition, always consider eliminating the confined space entry activity;
  1. If there are no alternatives to confined space entry, always test for presence of gas;
  1. Remember to continuously gas monitor atmospheric conditions;
  1. Always ensure that confined space entry  is controlled by an authorized “Permit to Work”;
  1. Ensure workers performing confined space entry work are suitable trained;
  1. Ensure that a stand-by person acts as a sentry;
  1. Provide adequate Supervision, especially where contractors are involved; and
  1. Prevent unauthorized entry.

For a useful toolbox presentation on the management of confined space entry work, click the link to our “process safety tools”.

UK HSE Releases North Sea Oil Safety Statistics

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released data on the number of safety incidents and injuries occurring in the UK North Sea oil and gas industry.

Based on provisional figures for 2009/10:

  • There were no reportable fatalities in 2009/10.
  • There were 50 major injuries reported during the period in comparison to an average of 42 major injuries over each of the previous five years.

The main causes of major injuries were related to:

  • Slips, trips and falls (26);
  • Being trapped or struck by moving objects (11); or
  • Manual straining injuries associated with lifting, pulling,pushing and the handling of loads (5).

Those three causes accounted for 83% of the total injuries reported.

11 major injuries were to the lower limb/foot/ankle and 26 to the upper limb.  27 major injuries (54%) were due to fracture.

In addition there were 443 dangerous safety occurrences reported to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The main types of dangerous occurrences reported were:

  • Hydrocarbon releases (42.1%);
  •  Failure of equipment offshore (23.4%);
  •  Well-related incidents (6.3%); and
  • Failures during lifting operations (8.6%).


For further information about this information, read the UK HSE Safety Bulletin at:

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