March, 1998

This is a repeating event

199827MarAll DayUnion Carbide (Hahnville) Asphyxiation 1998Union Carbide Hahnville (US-LA) Origin: CSB Lessons:Control of WorkIndustry:ChemicalsCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Maintenance error

Summary

On March 27, 1998, at approximately 12:15 pm, two workers at Union Carbide Corporation’s Taft/Star Manufacturing Plant (the plant) in Hahnville, Louisiana, were overcome by nitrogen gas while performing a black light inspection at an open end of a 48-inch-wide horizontal pipe. The 48-inch pipe was open because chemical-processing equipment had been shut down and opened for major maintenance. Nitrogen was being injected into the process equipment primarily to protect new catalyst in reactors from exposure to moisture. The nitrogen was also flowing through some of the piping systems connected to the reactors. The nitrogen was venting from one side of the open pipe where it had formerly been connected to an oxygen feed mixer. No warning sign was posted on the pipe opening identifying it as a confined space or warning that the pipe contained potentially hazardous nitrogen.

The two workers had placed a sheet of black plastic over the end of the pipe to provide shade to make it easier to conduct the black light test during daylight. While working just outside the pipe opening and inside of the black plastic sheet, the two workers were overcome by nitrogen. One worker died from asphyxiation. The other worker survived but was severely injured.

KEY ISSUES:
• USE OF NITROGEN IN CONFINED SPACES
• SAFETY OF TEMPORARY ENCLOSURES

ROOT CAUSES:
1. Procedures to control potential hazards created by erecting temporary enclosures around nitrogen-containing equipment were inadequate.
2. Nitrogen and confined space hazard warnings were inadequate.


Image Credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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