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Lessons Learned from the Deadly Chemical Explosion in China

Posted by The Fauske Team on 08.20.15

By Amy Theis, Director of Risk Management Services and AnnMarie Fauske, Marketing Manager, Fauske & Associates, LLC

Fauske & Associates, LLC (FAI) is deeply saddened by the recent deadly explosion that occurred in Tianjin, China, last week and expresses its condolences to the families affected by this terrible tragedy. In the wake of this event, there are several lessons to be learned.150814104619-tianjin-blast-25-exlarge-169

It is important to understand the hazards of individual chemicals being handled and stored as well as the potential consequences if these chemicals were to interact with each other. This includes recognizing chemicals that are water-reactive and identifying gases which may be generated from such an interaction. In some cases, these gases could be flammable, which could contribute to secondary events.

Periodic reviews of your facility’s chemical storage policy should include segregation and separation of potentially flammable material.  This is a critical step in preventing events such as occurred at Tianjin. For example, chemicals that could react with each other such as organic solids and oxidizers should be properly segregated. Nitrated compounds have particularly energetic properties and should be reviewed to ensure that their quantities are limited (if possible) and that they are segregated appropriately from other oxidizing materials.

It is prudent to review the emergency response plan for your facility. One critical point is to verify that firefighters are immediately provided with up-to-date information regarding chemicals that are in the facility, and where large quantities of these chemicals are located. If any chemicals are water-reactive, this is essential information for the firefighters to understand.  

The Tianjin incident also raises awareness regarding appropriate training for personnel handling hazardous chemicals, regardless of the quantity of chemicals involved. Personnel should be trained regarding hazards associated with location-specific storage and handling requirements.  Proper hazard communication promotes awareness of potentially dangerous materials and educates employees and first-responders on how to respond to abnormal conditions.

As details of this tragedy emerge, there will likely be more lessons learned. It is FAI’s goal to prevent these types of events from occurring by educating industry regarding the potential hazards of chemicals and by evaluating and mitigating the risk associated with chemical handling and storage at your facility. If you would like support for this type of evaluation, please contact us at, 630-323-8750. You may also reach me directly at or 630-887-5211.

Fauske & Associates, LLC (FAI) is a world leader in nuclear, industrial and chemical process safety. Founded in 1980 by Hans Fauske, D.Sc., Michael Grolmes, Ph.D. and Dr. Robert Henry, Ph.D., FAI became a wholly owned subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC, in 1986. FAI assumed early leadership roles in the acclaimed DIERS program for AIChE and the IDCOR program for the nuclear power industries. These activities led to state-of-the-art methodology and laboratory tools for characterizing chemical systems and computer models for analyzing severe accidents in commercial nuclear power plants used worldwide. Recognized worldwide for phenomenological modeling related to the prevention and accommodation of chemical and nuclear power accidents, FAI also provides advanced training and research in physics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, nuclear engineering, computer science and other fields. FAI is ISO- 17025/IEC, ISO-9001 and TickIT certified. FAI is an Authorized Provider of IACET Continuing Education Units (CEUs). 

FAI is also recognized for conducting comprehensive plant evaluations. FAI’s Nuclear Systems Group helps its customers enhance the availability and reliability of their operating plants while maintaining regulatory compliance, extending plant life and reducing operation and maintenance costs.  With regard to industrial safety, FAI is a leader in the growing dust explosivity/combustibility and process safety areas. In addition to parts and laboratory testing, on-site consulting services are a key customer request for FAI. 

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