Another Process Safety Failure?

The news media are full of reports of the disaster that occurred overnight at the Dixie Crystals plant, now owned by Imperial Sugar, in Savannah, Ga.Imperial Sugar Dixie Crystals plant Six people are missing and presumed dead after a massive explosion sent flames and smoke high into the air and burned and injured workers streaming out of the plant. At least 40 workers were injured, many of them critically. Reports of workers with third degree burns over large parts of their bodies have been made in several media outlets. The cause of the explosion is undetermined, of course, pending investigation, but Imperial Sugar CEO, John Sheptor, said that the company believed the cause of the explosion was combustible sugar dust. The apparent ignition point was in a silo, Sheptor said. Most companies, and I am sure Imperial Sugar is no exception, maintain the best process safety standards and training they can. The question this brings to my mind is are we trying to control and ensure process safety the right way? What I mean is, we've spent millions, maybe even billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of hours on process safety, and accidents...real big horrible accidents...continue to happen with disturbing regularity. Why? Anybody out there got any ideas?

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  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201104_pf.html

    This sort of thing isn't new. Just a couple months ago, this sort of accident happened in Baltimore, though nobody was seriously hurt. There was speculation that sugar dust ignited.

    This reminds me of all those Class I Div II questions on the CSE P&P exam. One would think that people would know these hazards and do their best to mitigate them.

    Perhaps an organization such as OSHA or CSB will investigate and let everyone know what failed. You never know, it might have been a mis-classified area, or even a loophole in the standards.

    This is the down side to standards. Too many people try to weasel their way around them instead of attempting to understand what the standard was trying to do in the first place.

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