IOSH's Hazardous Industries Group commissioned the event alongside the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to explain the rationale behind the strict systems governing the sector.
Making use of HSL’s extensive large-scale testing facilities, demonstrations included a dust cloud explosion, drum bursting, pool fires and hydraulic fluid fires.
The event, called ‘Hazardous industries with a bang – an introduction to process hazards’, was hosted by HSL, which is part of the Health and Safety Executive, on Wednesday 9 November.
Josh Rice, Chair of the IOSH group, said: “One of the issues with process safety hazards involving flammable substances and dusts is that the injury and impact seems remote and intangible, with layers of design and working instruction preventing the hazard being realised.
“Few in this industry sector understand or have experienced what a fire involving 5kg of flammable gas looks, sounds and feels like. With this lack of personal experience, the value of those layers of design and working instruction can create a culture where the integrity of processes such as risk assessment, permit systems, safety culture and emergency response become degraded.
“Through practical demonstrations, our event was designed to provide knowledge and practical experience of these process hazards and the behaviour of flammable substances and dusts, thereby bolstering the safety systems surrounding them.”
As well as the demonstrations, HSL’s Dr Graham Atkinson – an internationally-recognised expert in safety research and fire engineering – gave a talk about the issues. He spoke about the importance of having fire retardant clothing and the causes and impact of different explosions, such as those in intermediate bulk containers and vapour cloud explosions.
Graham also cited examples such as the Buncefield blast in 2005, at which he was HSL’s lead investigator, as to what can happen when the correct procedures are not followed.
Commenting on the value provided by the event, Dr Karen Russ, Science and Commercial Director at the HSL, said: “These demonstrations bring home – in a visual and memorable way – the necessity of robust process safety systems for high-hazard industries.
“HSL works with all industries to develop such systems, drawing upon our scientific, technical and medical expertise to ensure that risk is managed appropriately and workers are protected.”