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Chemical Workplace Safety During The Holidays

We all look forward to the end of the year, and for good reason—holiday greetings, treats and time off. However, it’s important to remember chemical workplace safety doesn’t take a holiday vacation.

Mid-November of this year, four workers died when 100 pounds of the lethal chemical methyl mercaptan leaked due to a damaged valve, according to NBC News. These tragic deaths could have been prevented with proper safety and planning—the plant in La Porte, Texas was cited at least four times by an OSHA inspection in 2007 for safety violations.

It’s important that proper safety procedures are always in place, and even more so when the workload eases during holiday closures.

So, what can you do during holiday operations to maintain chemical workplace safety?

Follow these steps to keep your chemical plant, workers and equipment safe during holiday shutdowns:

empty chemical workplace plant

  1. Maintain the same steadfastness when it comes to safety and processes during the holiday as you do normally. Even if fewer employees are on the clock, safety is just as important.
  2. Encourage employees to be aware of holiday schedules. If they have shifts, remind them that this time is just as important as any other. Being prepared for work can be tough the day after a holiday, but that’s when safety habits can slip and increase risk.
  3. Routine checks are necessary during the holiday. If hazardous materials are still around, they need to be treated with regular care.
  4. If different sections or components of your plant are being serviced or undergoing maintenance during the shutdown, make sure proper startup safety procedures are followed afterwards, especially in the first days after the holiday.

Often, plants continue to run during the holidays instead of completely shutting down. A reduced staff load is often implemented, so many employees can spend time at home with families or loved ones. However, with possible managers and technical staffers missing, employees on the clock might be more apt not to notice or point out problems.

Encourage those employees at the plant to treat problems as they normally would! It’s important if someone sees something, they still tell someone about it to avoid a catastrophe or safety hazard. Make sure that the correct person is notified and staffers know who they can turn to. A direct line of communication is always the best route.

Furthermore, contract workers are often in the plant if scheduled maintenance occurs during the holidays. Make sure those new to your operations are aware of safety measures, emergency plans and other critical workplace safety information.

Your workplace safety plan or manual should have guidelines for proper procedures during holiday breaks or shutdowns. If not, it’s worth considering editing your chemical workplace safety manual to reflect this. If you’re looking for information on how to better protect your chemical plant, workers or become CFATS compliant, contact Huffmaster today.

Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.

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