Thursday, April 28, 2016


ICS, or the incident commandsystem is system of communication during disaster/incidents.  In other words, this is the chain ofinformation and the order in which people are informed about events.  This is something that was taken much moreserious during a series of fires in California in the 1970’s. 
It was determined that the fire was sodevastating, not because of lack of manpower or resources, but from lack ofcommunication.  That being said, ofcourse today we have a much easier way of communicating.  Everyone has mobile phones, emails, etc.  So today communication is much easier andmuch more efficient.  Regardless,communication still plays just as big of a rule, or maybe even a bigger rolenow, in emergencies.  The amount of timeit takes for emergency responders to respond to an emergency can often be thedifference between life and death.   Anexample of were lack of communication cost lives was in 9/11.  Some lack of communication is always expected.  You cannot expect all of New York City to beaware of a disaster as soon as it happens. However, many people lost there life’s simply because they did not knowwhat was happening.  There are stories ofpeople gathering up their belongings in the towers and never coming out becauseof the time they wasted.  Also people inthe surrounding areas were not necessarily instantly aware of what was takingplace.  If the chain of command in thetowers was improved it could have saved life. We see a similar scenario in other tragedies like HurricaneKatrina.  Some people were just nevertold to evacuate.  Because of thisreason, it is estimated that many people lost their life’s.  Many people were in fact told to leave, andrefused because they did not fully understand the magnitude of the situation.  ICS is used on many different scales.  Whether it is in private business or theUnited States government.  There are manyintricacies to the ICS.   Including longand short term planning.  In large-scale tragediesit could take an unforeseen amount of time to get everything cleaned up.  Hurricane Katrina took years and it is stillnot completely cleaned up. 
The ICS caninclude grotesque procedures, including those telling how to deal with amassive amount of fatalities and what to do with the bodies.  Unfortunately this is an inevitable part oftragedies.  Procedures like this arecrucial to deal with the scenarios as effectively as possible and save as many life’sas possible.  However in a mass chaos there are many unforeseen events that can disrupt the planed ICS.  No matter how much planning and preparationgoes into an ICS there will always be some form of confusion.  But that’s why so much time and effort isgoes into preventing disasters.  In anoccupational setting, that is why we have safety regulations.  Massive disasters can occur as result ofnegligence for safety.  There arecountless chemicals, equipment, and compressed gases that can very easily causea large scale disaster.  For this reason,ICS and its contributing standards are extremely important.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


PCBs, or PolychlorinatedBiphenyls, are a group of environmentally harmful compounds that used to beproduced in the United States.  A PCBmolecule is any of 209 chemical compounds called congeners.  For something to be classified as a PCB, oneto ten chlorine atoms must be attached to a biphenyl molecule. 
PCBs were manufactured in the United States,Europe, and Japan under the trade name “Aroclor”.  Monsanto was the company that produced“Aroclor”. PCB’s used to be in just about everything.  Whether it be plastics, paints, rubberproducts, coolants, electrical components or anything dealing with themanufacturing process. They are favorable in products for their thermal andchemical resistance.  PCBs have a veryhigh boiling point, usually above 270 degrees Celsius.  This is what makes them so useful for heatresistant applications.  For this reasonthey were often used in high temperature lubricants.  Many plastic parts for automobiles, and otherequipment that are close to a heat source such as an engine contained PCB’s.  For the same reason, PCB’s were widely usedin electrical equipment.  Transformersand lining of wires often require being I insulated with heat resistantmaterial. 
This requirement makes PCB’s aperfect match. While banned in many countries, like the U.S., Canada, and a lotof the European Union, many developing countries still use PCB’s in productionof their products.    For the same reasons that make PCB’s souseful, they are also harmful to the environment.  Because they are so resistant to heat andother factors, they also do not break down in the environment over time.  This means that they accumulate at a veryrapid rate.  This is particular evidentin our water ways.  The animal that isconsidered to have the highest PCB concentration is the orca whale.  But in more general terms, aquatic lifegenerally has the highest level of PCB’s. Predatory fish/mammals have the highest levels due to bioaccumulation.  This is because they are eating lower lifeforms every day.  The PCB’s that theirprey has absorbed is than brought into the body of the predatory animal.  Because PCB’s do not break down easy, theystay in the animal’s body.  This can havemany adverse health effects.  Just someof the effects include mothers having premature births, cancer, heart disease,and pretty much anything else you can think of relating to a chroniccondition.  Now this all sounds bad, noone wants animals to be sick.  But theconcerning part about this is that humans are eating these animals.  So we are also suffering from bioaccumulation.  PCB’s are thought to have the same effect inhumans as on marine mammals.  This isconcerning because such a large portion of the fish we eat come from the ocean. In particular salmon, which is apredatory fish.  So if bioaccumulationshappening in salmon, it is even more magnified in humans, since we are actuallyeating a predator.  Overall, we need tocompletely stop the use PCBs worldwide. It does not matter if the U.S. is no longer using PCB’s if other nationsstill are.  PCB’s drift thousands ofmiles and spread all across the world in are oceans.                    

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fit Testing

Fit testing is a veryimportant part of making sure employees respiratory devices are workingproperly.  The purpose of the fit test isto ensure that the mask has an airtight seal around the face of the individualwearing it.  If the fit is not right, thanwhatever material trying to be kept out may be breathed in by the personwearing the mask.  This is a reason forconcern, particularly when many dangerous gases don’t have a scent or very manywarning signs.  Filtering particulates,gases, or anything else out is a vital task of any filter respirator.  An airtight seal is also vital with asupplied air respirator. Fit tests can be done in a variety of ways.  Either using an electronic machine thatdetects the particles coming into the mask or simply using a very strongscent/taste test to tell if are leaking in around the seal.  Both test have some similarities but are verydifferent.  The cheaper method of testingis the taste/smell test.  This methoddoes not require the high-end digital equipment that the other testrequires. 
That being said it is alsoless precise but still very effective.  Asubstance, usually saccharin, is used to tell if any outside air is seepingthrew the seal of the mask.  A hood isplaced over the subject to keep the saccharin released in the air in thevicinity of the mask so it may be detected.  First the person administering the test releases the saccharin into thehood while the person is not wearing a mask. This is to see how much saccharin is needed to be administered before itcan be detected.  Than the person drinkswater to clear the taste from there mouth. The mask is than fitted onto the persons face.  Saccharin is than added to the closed hoodonce again.  The person is asked to movetheir head side to side, and up and down. The person is asked to read “The Rainbow Passage”.  The subject is asked to bend over or jog inplace as well.  If the person at anypoint detects the scent/taste during the test than you know the seal is notgood.  The mask is than either refittedor swapped for another type of respirator. The process is similar for the other method as well. 
The subject is still asked to read therainbow passage, move side-to-side, tilt up and down etc.  A hose is fitted to the respirator and thanconnected to the machine. While the person is performing the tasks previouslylisted, the machine measures the amount of particulate entering the air theperson is breathing within the mask.  Thesame process is repeated as it is in the smell/taste test.  The mask is either refitted or swapped out ifthe subject fails the test.  One bigreason a person may fail the test is if they have facial hair that prevents themask from sealing to there face.  Manytimes the employee may be asked to shave their face to ensure a better fit.  Naturally, this is usually more of a problemwith men.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Process Safety Management(PSM)

Processsafety management or (PSM) is an analytical tool centered on preventingreleases of any substance defined as a highly hazardous chemical.  PSM refers to a set of approaches that are used tomanage hazards associated with the industrial processes and it is intended toreduce the frequency and severity of incidents resulting from releases ofchemicals and other energy sources (US OSHA 1993). These standards are composedof organizational and operational procedures, design guidance, audit programs,and convey of other methods.  Here I have included the 14 step process andan explanation from OSHA’s website.

 1) Develop and maintain written safety information identifying workplacechemical and process hazards, equipment used in the processes, and technologyused in the processes.
 (2) Perform a workplace hazard assessment,including, as appropriate, identification of potential sources of accidentalreleases, identification of any previous release within the facility that had apotential for catastrophic consequences in the workplace, estimation ofworkplace effects of a range of releases, and estimation of the health andsafety effects of such a range on employees.
(3) Consult with employees and theirrepresentatives on the development and conduct of hazard assessments and thedevelopment of chemical accident prevention plans and provide access to theseand other records required under the standard.
(4) Establish a system to respond tothe workplace hazard assessment findings, which shall address prevention, mitigation,and emergency responses.
 (5) Review periodically the workplace hazard assessmentand response system.
(6) Develop and implement writtenoperating procedures for the chemical processes, including procedures for eachoperating phase, operating limitations, and safety and health considerations.
(7) Provide written safety andoperating information for employees and employee training in operatingprocedures, by emphasizing hazards and safe practices that must be developedand made available.
(8) Ensure contractors and contractemployees are provided with appropriate information and training;
(9) Train and educate employees andcontractors in emergency response procedures in a manner as comprehensive andeffective as that required by the regulation promulgated pursuant to section126(d) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act.
(10) Establish a quality assuranceprogram to ensure that initial process-related equipment, maintenancematerials, and spare parts are fabricated and installed consistent with designspecifications; Process Safety Management 4.
(11) Establish maintenance systems forcritical process-related equipment, including written procedures, employeetraining, appropriate inspections, and testing of such equipment to ensure ongoingmechanical integrity.
(12) Conduct pre-startup safety reviewsof all newly installed or modified equipment.
(13) Establish and implement writtenprocedures managing change to process chemicals, technology, equipment andfacilities.
 (14) Investigate every incident that resultsin or could have resulted in a major accident in the workplace, with anyfindings to be reviewed by operating personnel and modifications made, ifappropriate.

Process Safety has developed overthe years.  Unfortunately, this is oftendue to severe incidents.  But it isthrough these incidents that we learn. OSHA and the EPA have a huge influence on the PSM.  OSHA, covering the safety of the employees.  And the EPA covering the environmental risksthat industry causes.  However the twocan be heavily tied, for example the Bhopal, India release was an environmentalpollutant that cause a lot of harm to people (not necessarily employees in thiscase).  This is just one example of how thetwo are heavily intertwined.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

t-butyllithium in heptane

Shipping hazardous materialsof any sort poses a massive risk to people. The people most at risk is the person packaging the material, theperson transporting it, and the person opening the package.  However certain materials can put largeamounts of people in danger.  In thisscenario, we are going to talk about transporting a very hazardouschemical.  The chemical is known as t-butyl-lithium in heptane (heptane is the solvent).  This is classified as a pyrophoric liquid. Pyrophoricchemicals areliquids and solids that have the potential to spontaneously ignite in air attemperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit/ 54 degrees Celsius or below. It alsohas corrosive, water reactive, and peroxide forming properties.  TBL (t-butyl-lithium) will catch fire if exposedto oxygen/air.  If exposed to water, TBL reactsvery violently and gives off flammable gases and corrosive dust.  TBL is so reactive with water; even themoisture from your body or skin will cause it to react, if the oxygen in theair has not already caught it on fire. Inhaling the vapors from TBL is very dangerous. 
Inhalation of vapors may cause dizziness,nausea, anesthesia, numbness, motor weakness in fingers and toes,incoordination, and headaches.  Ifingested, TBL may produce a lung aspiration.  As you can see, this chemical is very dangerous in many ways.  When shipping this chemical, it is to be keptfree of contact from water, air, and oxidizing materials.  When being handled, personnel should wear afull-face mask and gloves at the very least. The environment in which TBL is being handled should be a closed systemunder argon and nitrogen gases.  TBLshould be kept away from any sparks and flames.  Storage containers should be protected, andphysically inspected for leaks and physical damage.  Shipping TBL should be very carefully carriedout.    The package containing TBL should show that itis an organometallic substance, that it is a liquid, that it is pyrophoric, andthat it is water reactive.  The packageshould also be labeled “T-BUTYLLITHIUM, HYDROCARBON SOLUTION, 4.2(4.3), UN 3394, PG I”.  Shipments also require a“Dangerous When Wet” and “Spontaneously Combustible” label(s).  Transport of TBL by post, parcel, and air,are prohibited in the United States.  Itis however aloud to be transported by roadway and railway in class4.2(4.3)(DOT).  All shipments on roadwaysneed to be carried out in a DOT(Department of Transportation) approved vehicle.  It is also aloud to be transported by sea inclass 4.2(4.3)(IMDG).   When shipping TBLthe container is not to be filled more than 90 percent of its potentialcapacity.  The extra space in containersis filled with an inert gas like nitrogen. Glass containers are fitted with a septum so the chemical can beretrieved with a syringe.  Othercontainers are slightly pressurized and fitted with one-way valves to preventair contamination.  Containers should beair and watertight.  Containers shouldalso have an extremely robust outer shell to ensure the TBL does notescape.  More than one layer ofcontainment is highly recommended due to the extreme danger TBL poses.   Vehicles carrying the chemical should beclearly marked as hazardous material transporters. 

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