Firestorm - National leader in Crisis management, Critical decision support, Crisis communications, Crisis public relations, Crisis response, Crisis consequence management
HEADLINE: Texas Chemical Plant Explosion and Fire
SUMMARY: A massive fire broke out at a chemical plant in Waxahachie, Texas late Monday morning. The Magnablend facility at 1601 US Hwy 287 was fully engulfed in flame by 11 a.m. It is not clear what started the fire. Magnablend is a custom chemical manufacturer for oilfield, agricultural and industrial services.
STORY LINK: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/100311-Huge-Fire-at-Waxahachie-Chemical-Plant
Analysis by -Anyck Turgeon, Firestorm Expert Council member
Are we becoming our own worst terrorists? As the economy is challenged and corporate executives have to focus on increasing profitability from one quarter to the next, some business leaders may be rendering decisions that affect safety and security. Basing decisions on the probability of an incident instead of a full risk analysis (which also includes long-term impact assessment) is a too frequent path chosen in this tight economy. We need to be sure that our manufacturing industries remain proactive in their protection of their staff and the people that live around their facilities.
For example, when a chemical explosion has the potential to cause more than $100 million in damage and create a recorded 3.5 earthquake 600 miles away, the impact of this unusual blast may have ever-lasting consequences. Thankfully there was no loss of life; however, the long-term toll can be significant. Inspiring stories such as the one related in the movie Erin Brokovich show how inappropriate disposal of toxic waste can impact entire cities for several generations.
The impact of manufacturing plants exploding offers the same level of potential challenges and we need to enhance our safety practices to ensure the vibrant lives of generations to come. Here are a few questions we may want to ask ourselves in relation to chemical spills, fires and explosions: Why is it that ancient Huichol tribes did not get effected by diseases such as cancer until 10-20 years ago? Why is it that 90 percent of stress-related diseases are experienced in America?
I have been shocked by the lack of security laws and minimum safety practices I observed once I left high-tech labs and started visiting manufacturing facilities. The absence of three letter acronym governmental agencies was shocking and the lenient approach toward compliance and standards horrific.
It is outstanding that doctors are now empowered with more than 400 different types of electronic devices to access patient's information. Yet, even if combustion is lowering the toxicity of exploded chemicals, we do not appear to have implemented sufficient technologies to reduce destruction within America.
The solution is simple: more proactive or "Preaction™" security practices are required in manufacturing in order to avoid unnecessary incidents that impact the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we grow food from. At some point, I look forward to futuristic solutions whereas dangerous materials can be more effectively and safely converted through advanced recycling methods.
In the meantime, here are some simple and very basic steps to ensure that critical manufacturing sectors such as agriculture and chemical industries should consider implementing:
1) ON-SITE WEEKLY SAFETY TRAINING: OSHA and ASIS sites offer great training opportunities for staff to learn how to properly manage chemicals. For example, in the a form of the 16th most available chemical on the planet, Sulphur (in pastille format) can become a potentially lethal explosive. Proper handling, mixing, and management of all resources is critical at all times – even from uninformed and/or temporary staff. Ongoing training on a weekly basis is needed – especially if selected resources were not provided with the latest industry education. It is key to ensure that a plant manager offers weekly training and briefing to his/her staff to ensure protection of corporate assets (especially human resources). Bi-yearly evacuation practices are not sufficient.
2) SAFETY GUIDE, GEAR AND EMPLOYMENT MANUAL: Part of your training will be most successful if employees are provided with the right safety tools to work with. Start by ensuring proper provision and rotation of safety gear for all staff and visitors. Ensure that all safety devices such as fire extinguishers, eye washers, emergency showers, etc. are tested and updated as required. Provide a safety guide and important safety procedures at locations often accessed. Make sure that your HR representatives work closely with your safety team so that practical guidance is aligned in the safety guide and employment manual. Staff should get briefed upon orientation as well as receive on-going constructive reminders about HR and safety practices.
3) PREACTION™ vs. REACTION: To this extent, it is best to train staff about your ongoing inventory of resources so they know how to prevent unfortunate incidents from taking place - instead of having to deal with elaborate evacuation plans. This list should also be shared with local trusted resources such as your fire department in order to ensure more rapid and effective containment upon any incident. Simple, but ongoing basic chemical safety training may suffice to avoid lethal results. Make sure that your staff knows how to handle issues before they become a major corporate liability that negatively affects your balance sheet!
4) UPDATED REAL-TIME INVENTORY: As many combinations of chemicals can have devastating effects, it is critical to have real-time systems that can inform staff about the lethal aspect of every item stored on site. Too often, employees may elect to “wear-off” chemically-contaminated protection gear. It can only take a tiny fire sparkle from a boiler to kill employees. Mishandled chemical environments tend to result in unfortunate and highly preventable reactions. It is best for your staff to comprehend the lethal nature of each chemical component that is stored on site as well as their combined devastating effects.
5) REGULATIONS DO NOT ENSURE SHORT-TERM SAFETY AND LONG-TERM SURVIVAL: As the current requirements of governmental agencies are quite generic and not necessarily enforced, it is imperative for staff to have ongoing access to key executives to communicate the existing delta between compliance and safety. Currently, regulating and enforcement agencies accept whistleblowing claims within a six-month radius, and here are the top 10 areas of penalties that OSHA released for fiscal 2010:
This is a great start toward plant safety. Yet, in the case of mishandling combined chemicals resulting in an explosion at the Magnablend facility, there is a critical need for more than compliance. It is imperative that physical safety and data security come under a common platform that offers real-time reports and quarterly reviews of corporate risk-impact analysis.
6) USE YOUR PEOPLE AS WELL AS LOCAL AND FEDERAL RESOURCES: With the assistance of local support such as bi-yearly visits by the police department and/or fire officials as well as yearly OSHA and/or EPA inspections, you can gain critical and prioritized knowledge about , risks, and the probability of unfortunate impacts on production and revenue-generating plants. Just as insurance companies need to perform risk analysis to offer the best possible coverage, it is a good idea to have created a list of your risks with correlating mitigating strategies. Lending institutions and government granting entities need to start asking for a fuller picture of the risks.
In addition to captured data and video monitoring recordings, simple measures such as implementing an open and anonymous suggestion box may offer an opportunity for your staff to provide you with greater insight. Your best allies are within. Why not use their first-hand knowledge to make safety and security a key purchasing differentiator for your customers? Can your customer really trust the value proposition of your differentiated offerings? Are there formal and informal ways for resources to let you know about critical safety needs?
Let’s make sure that these very basic measures are implemented so our world can be a better place where we can all rest, go to school safely, spend time tubing in natural hot springs of Texas with our families, and all make a decent living!
Let’s work together toward Preaction™ .
Do you have an urgent issue you’d like to discuss now? Contact Firestorm at (800) 321-2219
Download our Toolbar!
Firestorm believes that crisis preparedness is predicated on recognition of imminent threats. Our weekly newsletter is an invaluable tool that reports on current conditions and issues, and includes original commentary and analysis from our Expert Council, Senior Leadership, and Guest Contributors. Valuable, insightful commentary analysis each week - and it's FREE! Sign up to receive these critical alerts
Firestorm presents a variety of topical webinars each month for the business community presented by leading experts in their fields. Our Leadership Team and Expert Council present as Keynote Speakers, Program Presenters, and Panel Members at events across the country. Keep up to date and Join us!
View our Upcoming Events...
Firestorm founders Harry Rhulen and Jim Satterfield wrote Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America specifically to address the need for crisis and disaster preparedness at home, and the book has become a cornerstone of many personal and corporate preparedness programs.