In 2013, a midsized chemical refinery experienced a leak that contaminated the ground, which led to a small fire. As often happens in life, you get thrown a curveball, and you just have to find ways to deal with it. But the question will always get asked: Could it have been prevented?
Luckily, this fire was contained. The refinery lost only a few days of production (which actually can still be very costly), but the fire made it get serious about prevention. No more messing around, taking chances, or meaningless discussions.
So what was the cause? The problem was a misapplied gauge. We discussed gauges in a previous blog post. This situation is not the same as a malfunctioning gauge with inaccurate readings, but, yes, a lot of safety does appear to center on gauges. There's a reason for that, and it's in the name. In the engineering sense, when something is being gauged, it's usually a measurement relating to safe operating levels.
When it looked into this case, management realized there had been problems with proliferation and maintenance. Unlike an inaccurate gauge (which is a technical failure), this was more due to a lack of training, which would have enabled proper application.
In this scenario, the team responsible for sorting out the mess noticed that some of the plant's key processes had temperatures exceeding 750°F and were using misapplied gauges "that were never meant to withstand such high temperatures." This, of course, meant the gauges were constantly being replaced. The team discovered that 30% of the gauges at the refinery were "red," meaning they needed immediate replacement.
If there's one thing to consider when running an operation like this, it's to ensure the staff is properly trained on each application. That's not to say people are not right for the job, but it's always too easy to say that there's no time for continued professional development, and that basic knowledge should be enough, when in reality just a little training could save time, money, and even lives.
This blog was written on behalf of TC Fluid Control.