by ICC Compliance Center on April 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm · in Ken's Blog
By now most people have heard about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX. CNN is reporting several (5-15) fatalities and over 200 injured. Located north of Waco, TX and approximately 75 miles south of Dallas, TX on I-35 and it has a reported population of 2,700 people. This information may be premature as reports are still coming in as of 0900 (CST) on April 18, 2013.
One emergency worker who had been reported as missing, a constable serving as a volunteer firefighter, has been found in a hospital with critical injuries. Three or four first responders, among the first to fight the fire before the fertilizer plant exploded shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, 2013 remain missing. And there is a confirmation that there are at least 2 emergency responders who received fatal injuries.
The plant is surrounded by homes and businesses which included a nearby apartment complex with about 50 units and a nursing home and a middle school that had been destroyed. Also there were between 50-75 homes that were destroyed.
According to eyewitnesses, “It was a small fire and then water got sprayed on the ammonium nitrate, and it exploded just like the Oklahoma City bomb.”
People as far as 50 miles away reported feeling what seemed like an earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the blast generated enough force to register like a magnitude 2.1 earthquake.
One of the plants tanks had exploded and another was being monitored by emergency responders. A shelter in place order had been given to those who were not in the immediate area due to the leaks from tanks and piping the plants ruins.
The West Fertilizer Plant is an Anhydrous Ammonia plant and had a reported amount of over 54,000 pounds of the chemical on site before the explosion.
Ammonia, as used commercially, is often called anhydrous ammonia. This term emphasizes the absence of water in the material.
The proper name is UN1005 Ammonia, Anhydrous 2.3 (8) for international and a 2.2 for domestic (US) transportation. It is considered so corrosive to the skin that OSHA has mandated that anytime it is transported they are required to have 5 gallons of water to wash off any spills with. It is toxic by inhalation and causes severe respiratory distress. It is also a cryogenic liquid.
Anhydrous Ammonia is heavier than air and fills in depressions and as you can guess, under the right conditions highly volatile. During World War II, Belgium used it to power their buses.
Anhydrous Ammonia is not only used as a fertilizer, but as a commercial refrigerant for places like meat lockers and cold storage. It is also one of the main components for making Meth.
It was listed in the 49 CFR 172 Appendix A, Subpart B as a Hazardous Substance with an RQ of 10 lbs. But farmers have a strong lobbying group (hence the 2.2 domestic classification) and in this case it makes sense to have it removed from the table as they were putting it in the ground anyway. That does not alleviate the fact that there will probably be some long term, chronic health issues in the future.
The U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a 15-minute exposure limit for gaseous ammonia of 35 ppm by volume in the environmental air and an 8-hour exposure limit of 25 ppm by volume. NIOSH recently reduced the IDLH from 500 to 300 based on recent more conservative interpretations of original research in 1943. IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) is the level to which a healthy worker can be exposed for 30 minutes without suffering irreversible health effects.
Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a sharp, suffocating odor. People will notice the pungent odor at levels ranging from 5 – 50 parts per million (ppm). Irritating effects generally begin at levels between 25-50 ppm. More serious effects generally will not occur until levels are greater than 100 ppm. Anhydrous ammonia can rapidly cause dehydration and severe burns if it combines with water in the body.
Immediate health symptoms include: burning of the eyes, nose, and throat after breathing even small amounts. With higher doses, coughing or choking may occur. Exposure to high levels of anhydrous ammonia can cause death from a swollen throat or from chemical burns to the lungs. Eye exposure to concentrated gas or liquid can cause serious corneal burns or blindness.
Generally, the severity of symptoms depends on the degree of exposure. Most people recover from a single low exposure to anhydrous ammonia without any delayed or long-term effects. After a severe exposure, injury to the eyes, lungs, skin, or digestive system may continue to develop for 18 to 24 hours, and delayed effects primarily to the respiratory system or the eyes are possible.
Anhydrous Ammonia is not known to cause cancer.
There may be a white powder residual left over after it dries. This substance is ammonium hydroxide and occurs after anhydrous ammonia settles out after exposure to water. It is similar to the ammonia used in general home cleaning. This needs to be washed off with soap and water.
This information was secured from the ND Dept. Of Health, the University of MN, OSHA and the US Dept. of Health.
Is your business involved in the manufacturing, importing, advertising or selling of consumer products in Canada? If so, you should be aware of the requirements found in the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) which came into effect in June 2011.
The CCPSA introduced a number of new provisions including:
Prohibiting the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of any consumer products that pose an unreasonable hazard to human health or safety.
Requiring industry to provide Health Canada with timely information about important product safety issues.
Allowing Health Canada to order the recall of unreasonably hazardous consumer products when needed.
Making it an offense to package or label consumer products that make false or deceptive health or safety claims.
Requiring companies to retain documents to help trace products throughout the supply chain.
Increasing the levels of fines and penalties that can be imposed for contraventions.
Companies who become aware of an incident related to a consumer product they import, sell or manufacture are required to file an incident report, both to Health Canada and to the person from whom they obtained the product. The information will then provide Health Canada with a record of the incident and timely knowledge about product safety issues. This can help to protect the public from consumer products that pose an unreasonable hazard to human health or safety.
Anyone wanting to report a product safety incident directly to Health Canada may do so by going online and visiting www.healthcanada.gc.ca/reportaproduct or calling 1.866.662.0666 toll free.
Carrier selection and management has some serious implications for your business and you need to take it seriously. We all know with budget cuts and downsizing, many companies have done away with the traditional transportation manager position and have re-assigned this workload to purchasing, or pushed it down to customer service. In these scenarios you have people unfamiliar and inexperienced in the trucking industry buying freight services. Buying freight services is not like buying office supplies! There are many contractual and safety issues to consider before engaging the services of a transportation provider.
It’s amazing that the threat of lawsuits should be a reason for motivating people to do the right thing. However, in today’s World, it is a major consideration. There have been some major suits filed in the U.S. where the shipper and the logistics company got dragged into court for the choice of carrier on their shipment. It just so happened that the truck driver got into a major accident and not surprisingly, had a poor safety record. The shipper and the logistics company couldn’t show due diligence in their choice of carrier. This particular case was settled out of court, but the risk is real.
General Liability Insurance:
There are statutory minimum levels of insurance required by your carriers. In a recent court case, the shipper did not ensure the carrier had the proper insurance and was ordered to pay damages to victims of a traffic accident. It’s critical to have a system in place to monitor and verify that your carriers have valid insurance in place. You can do this by obtaining a certificate of insurance from their insurance company.
Did you know your carrier has no liability if your freight is damaged by: Act of God, Act of Civil Authority, Inherent Vice in the Goods (ie: insufficient packaging), or act or omission on behalf of the shipper (like loading it properly). You should have insurance that covers your goods in transit and specific situations where your carrier is not liable.
Did you know that freight originating in Canada has a maximum carrier liability of $2.00 per pound? If you declare more, you will be charged a fee, if you don’t declare a value $2.00 per pound is all you’ll get in the event of a claim.
Does your transportation broker have Errors and Omissions Insurance? They should! In a case where your broker “forgot” to tell the carrier to heat a freezable shipment in the winter, the carrier would be off the hook because they were not contracted for heat. The broker would have to take on the liability of a cargo claim in this situation. You need to ensure they have coverage.
There are more and more cases of identity theft in the transportation industry. A typical scheme is where a “thief” poses as a legitimate carrier and then gets all the credentials to pick up a shipment. The thief carrier goes in and picks up a shipment, never to be heard from again. You can reduce the risk of this by doing your homework and checking insurance certificates, the carrier’s website and real phone number, check to make sure the carrier has an active operating authority, and if the rate seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In recent court case, the central issue was the safety rating of the carrier involved in an accident. You should be checking SAFERSYS to make sure your carriers have a SATISFACTORY safety rating. This is easily done online and should be monitored regularly, because it can change. If you are using carriers with CONDITIONAL or UNSATISFACTORY safety ratings you could be putting your company at risk in the event the carrier gets in an accident where there are injuries or death.
Contracting with a carrier or transportation provider is serious business. There are complicated rules and regulations that govern transportation contracts as well as, a history of common law practice. Most of the time, if nothing goes wrong, no one notices. In the event of a chemical spill, an accident, a cargo claim, or cargo theft, everyone goes looking for someone to blame. Don’t let that person be you. Make sure you have a tight policy on carrier selection and qualification and make sure you have clearly defined who can approve new transportation providers.
A little due diligence comes in handy when the worst happens.
You probably think you’re safety-minded. After all, you’ve child-proofed your house, double-checked your car seat, and taken all the recommended precautions. This also applies to wherever you are staying when you are on vacation, whether it is a hotel or relative’s home. Although you should make every effort to keep your kids safe year-round, it is especially important in the summer when most kids are out of school. Still, many parents underestimate the special safety threats that summer brings. Kids are spending the bulk of their time outside, which raises their risk of getting hurt. Hot temperatures and more time spent outdoors, perhaps unsupervised, can put kids’ health and safety at risk, leading to a lot of accidents and tragedies this time of year at playgrounds, amusement parks, water parks, public swimming pools and beaches.
One of the most obvious hidden dangers in the summer simply has to do with the heat and can include:
Heat stress and heat stroke, which can be prevented. Keep kids well-hydrated, take frequent breaks when playing outside, and watch for symptoms such as thirst, cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and fever.
Getting burned on metal slides or other hot playground equipment.
Sunburns — are still common (especially if lotions are not used properly.)
Never leaving a child unattended in a car, even for a few minutes, as a car can get hot quickly, and be sure to always lock your car and secure your keys so that your kids can’t play in your car and get trapped inside
Playgrounds also have hidden dangers like:
Rule out school playgrounds for children 4 and under. They’re designed for school-age kids who are taller, have bigger hands, and possess more strength and coordination. Plus, school playgrounds likely won’t have tot swings — the type appropriate for kids under 4.
Perform your own inspections. Check out the playgrounds yourself — ideally, before you bring your child. Look for nine to 12 inches of sand, pea gravel, wood products, rubber products, or mats. Walk away if you see cement, asphalt, dirt, or grass: These surfaces are linked to head injuries. Next, examine the equipment for gaps between three and nine inches (where a child’s head could get stuck), hot surfaces, pinch points, sharp edges, and catch points like protruding bolts or gaps (where zippers or clothing might get caught). Also check the space between pieces; you want a “fall zone” of at least six feet for most standardized equipment. If the playground has tire swings, look for a hole at the bottom that allows water to drain; otherwise, they’re likely to breed mosquitoes. The right size for slides is no higher than four feet for preschoolers and six feet for older kids. They should also have guardrails to prevent falls.
Skip the drawstring pants. Also have your child avoid jackets with hoods, jewelry, jump ropes, and bicycle helmets, all of which can get tangled in playground equipment and to help prevent falls, have your child wear rubber-soled shoes.
Outfitting your kids with appropriate protective gear, such as a helmet and pads, when they ride a bicycle, skateboard or scooter
Teaching your kids to recognize and avoid poison ivy.
Hidden dangers at the beach or the swimming pool include:
Check for beach advisories or closings. Look up the latest water quality information for local beaches at www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches or www.cleanbeaches.org, especially after a big storm, which can lead to significant sewage overflow or polluted storm-water run-off.
Opt for a beach with lifeguards. Not having them increases the risk of drowning. Ask lifeguards about the safest area to swim and hazards to avoid, like jelly fish. If your child wanders off, tell a lifeguard.
Maintain constant supervision. Drownings often involve single swimmers. Young children should never enter the water without adult supervision and should be kept within arm’s reach of an adult at all times.
Take your child to swimming lessons
Educating kids at the beach that digging holes in the sand deeper than their knees can be a risk for a collapsing hole and getting trapped under the sand.
Always have your child wear a life vest when on a lake or river, even if they know how to swim.
Childproof your pool by enclosing it in a fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
Supervise your kids around the pool, even if they know how to swim.
Have children who don’t know how to swim wear a life vest instead of “floaties” when they are in the pool.
New lithium mines planned for Canada may challenge pollution rules
By Dean Beeby, The Canadian Press July 2, 2012
OTTAWA – Canada’s environmental regulations have lagged behind the global rush to develop deposits of lithium, a rare metal found in the rechargeable batteries that power millions of iPads, smartphones and laptops, says a new report.
The recent surge in lithium exploration, driven by a consumer electronics explosion and limited world supplies, includes several companies developing Canadian sites.
But Canada has little historical experience of lithium extraction, and existing environmental regulations are not well-tailored to the burgeoning industry.
“The Metal Mining Effluent Regulations do not specifically regulate all of the individual substances of concern that might be released from the mining or processing of rare earth elements and lithium,” says the report.
The regulations “were not specifically designed to manage the environmental aspects of these mining processes.”
The March 2012 report, commissioned by Environment Canada, was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
Canada has just one functioning lithium operation, the underground Tanco Mine at Bernic Lake, Man., that produces a lithium-containing ore known as spodumene, along with other minerals.
But soaring world demand for lithium, largely for use in the lithium-ion batteries that power a constellation of electronic devices and some vehicles, has sent more prospectors into the field.
Canada Lithium Corp. (TSX:CLQ) has been rejuvenating an old lithium mine 60 kilometres north of Val d’Or, Que. Production is slated to begin later this year, with on-site refining of the spodumene ore into lithium carbonate early in 2013.
The Quebec government issued a mining licence in June for the $207-million open-pit mine, though an environmental assessment is still underway.
And at least three companies are considering lithium-extraction operations using a brine-water process in an area of Alberta about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton. Those plans are in the early stages, and no environmental assessments have been completed, says the report.
Last summer, Environment Canada ordered a review of the lithium and rare earths sector in anticipation of surging interest and “to ensure that the current requirements of the (regulations) are adequate.”
Rare earths are exotic elements such as scandium and yttrium that are also vital to the electronics industry, including their use in flat-screen technology.
The $17,600 study by Cheminfo Services Inc. says that radioactive thorium is the byproduct of most concern in rare-earth mining and processing, still in its infancy in Canada.
Lithium extraction is somewhat more advanced in Canada. Hard-rock mining of lithium may have a lesser environmental impact than lithium produced through evaporation of brine, as proposed in Alberta.
Neither process is specifically referred to in the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations, and the consultants suggest the regulations may need to be changed to include brine processes. Provincial regulations may also apply.
Cheminfo also says one federal backstop to the mining regulations is a section of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish.
But the report was completed in March, a month before the Conservative government watered down many environmental protections in the Fisheries Act, through the omnibus C-38 budget bill, raising questions about its continued effectiveness. A spokesman for Environment Canada said the department has no plans to revise the mining effluent regulations.
“There are currently no plans to have new requirements outside of the existing provisions of the regulations,” Mark Johnson said in an email.
He noted that the report cited a regulatory gap for brine extraction, which is not currently practised in Canada.
“(Hard-rock) lithium mining from spodumene, which is the most common approach to lithium mining, is quite similar to other mining processes already covered by the MMER.”
The Cheminfo report notes Canada has reserves of some 360,000 tonnes of lithium, a fraction of reserves in the top three countries, Bolivia (5.4 million tonnes), Chile (three million tonnes) and China (1.1 million tonnes).
The study also cites forecasts suggesting there may be a world oversupply by 2020 as more players develop lithium mines and extraction facilities.
Global use of lithium, the lightest metal in the periodic table, has doubled since 2000 while prices have tripled.