05/30/2007

Slopes and Sparks - Safeguard Against Unforeseen Dangers

Halfway down a small hill, your truck makes an awful rattling sound under the
hood. You leave the ignition running, open your door…. Stop right here! You
shouldn't get out to check things out and you certainly shouldn't walk to the
front of the truck.

Don't even think about proceeding to pop open the hood and investigate.
Instead, think about the three workers in British Columbia (Canada) who
recently, in separate incidents, were fatally struck by their own vehicles
after exiting the cabs to troubleshoot or do repairs. Their trucks, much like
yours, were idling without the parking brake applied. Like you, they had parked
on a slope.

The Canadian WorkSafeBC issued a hazard alert to remind people of safe work
practices. Trucks are heavy. Wheels roll. Always be aware of these basic facts.
When troubleshooting or doing maintenance or repairs, you need more than just
your vehicle's braking system to protect yourself and others around you. Shut
off the engine, place the transmission in a low gear or other specified "park"
position, and/or chock the wheels. Apply the parking brakes on the tractor and
trailer before exiting the truck; trailer hand valves sometimes release, so
don't rely solely on the hand valve.

Inspect brakes at the start of your shift in your pre-trip inspection, and
other times as required. Where possible, park on flat terrain with the wheels
chocked.

A rolling truck is very different from another potentially fatal hazard - a
pile of pulverized coal in a cement plant - but the rule is the same: Look
beyond what appears to be stationary, and always try to see the unforeseen
dangers.

On a completely different topic, the United States Department of Labor, Mining
Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently issued an alert regarding fuel
firing explosions in cement operations and suggested some best operating
practices to help prevent future injuries.

In the metal and non-metal mining industry, fuel explosions are not uncommon.
Eighty percent of those explosions occur in the cement industry's handling,
preparation and firing of coal. In the United States there have been 36 fuel
firing explosions in the cement industry since 2001. Countless workers
sustained minor injuries or narrowly escaped getting hurt, while seven people
sustained severe burns or inhaled flames or superheated gases.

Any place coal dust is found, there is potential for an explosion. This
includes coal pulverizers, dust collectors, cyclones, kilns, conveying piping
and ductwork. During the cement-making process, the coal is usually inerted
with a gas such as nitrogen, so that it won't react ignite and explode.
Problems sometimes occur, however, during startup or shutdown, or if the
inerting system fails. Ignition can be caused by metal pieces fed into coal
grinders, which create sparks, or by static electricity or other sources.

Cement workers should be aware of this explosion hazard and ensure their coal
systems are designed to include bins for mass-flow; sloped ducts and piping to
prevent accumulations of coal; sensors to detect smouldering coal; proper
ventilation; fire suppression systems and other safety measures.

When working with coal dust, safe work practices include keeping temperatures
low in the mill outlet, avoiding hot system restarts, cooling the system before
opening for inspection or maintenance, repairing leaks, cleaning up any
spillage, wearing PPE when troubleshooting. All operations, maintenance and
support personnel must be trained on coal firing hazards and best practices.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety