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Home » Observations from ASTI presentations… continued

Observations from ASTI presentations… continued

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By Andrew Perks

As you may or may not remember, in the last issue of Cold Link Africa I communicated about the recent presentation from ASTI in their 28th Ammonia Day Event, well I want to continue with that.

With the input from so many tried and tested experts in the field there is still lots and lots of relevant information I want to share with you.

Also read: Thoughts to ponder from ASTI Safety Day

Let’s talk about the 1, 2, 3 plans for initial response. ASTI have a saying “Prevent them all or keep them small” – which all makes sense when you think about it. So how do we prevent them? Well, it means system compliance, training and more training. But it’s not all down to the operator, the company needs to buy into the process.

As I mentioned before there needs to be an inhouse safety culture developed and based around the fact that safety must become a lifestyle and is non-negotiable. In the US, if you don’t follow the correct protocols and there is an incident, you become seriously sanctioned and heavily fined. Wonder what will happen here in South Africa when the Department of Labour wakes up to that?

Accidents can and do happen as we are human after all. That being the case, we need to have procedures in place to ensure an immediate and quick response to an incident ensuring “we keep them small”. The fire department/emergency services are really not the expert on hazardous releases – that is an industry requirement. The fire department has its role with regards to dealing with any hazardous release.

A fire tends to stay put whilst an Ammonia release tends to move around, and its profile tends to be dictated by atmospheric conditions. If it’s a warm, low humid day, it tends to rise and drift away. However, if it’s a cold, high humidity day it tends to fall to the ground, and of course there is always the direction and strength of the wind to consider. Lots of contributing factors.

So that being the case, each response team player has their own particular role to play, this should be well defined before there is an incident. There needs to be a site emergency plan which includes an actual site plan with all of the positions of emergency equipment and personal protective equipment identified. I wonder… do you have such a plan? Not too many sites I have visited have.

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There needs to be critical task readiness, not just ‘let’s do the exercise on the last Friday of the month at 15:00 before we go home’. Rest assured the incident will not be at that time but it will catch you totally unawares. It’s important that the players know and understand the plan, making them aware of critical response procedures. This includes making the emergency responders aware of the complexity of the problem when they arrive on site and communication with the whole site.

If you don’t manage the incident, it will manage you – manage the chaos. An interesting video I saw recently showed the 30-minute plan for response to an incident. What really stood out was that when there was an incident, everybody knew their role. Communication was key as when the information was being passed down the line there was always the feedback “am I correct in understanding that what you are telling me is” no misinterpretations in the transfer of information. So often the message gets lost in the detail, which is not where you want to be in an emergency.

So, it’s all about thinking of the procedures and responses. I may make it sound as if there are terrible consequences to having and running an ammonia plant. No – but every action and reaction can, and does, have consequences – it’s just about thinking ahead, doing risk assessments, and doing the right thing.

Also read: Thoughts to ponder from ASTI Safety Day

As a green refrigerant, ammonia is still one of the most efficient refrigerants and is currently being used to produce hydrogen as an energy source and has so many more uses than just refrigeration. Hang around – there are some extremely interesting developments in the pipeline, climate change has brought about a whole new perspective to ammonia.

There are still some pertinent points I will be chatting about next time, so stay safe

About Andrew Perks

Image credit: Andrew Perks

Image credit: Andrew Perks

Andrew Perks is a subject expert in ammonia refrigeration. Since undertaking his apprenticeship in Glasgow in the 1960s he has held positions of contracts engineer, project engineer, refrigeration design engineer, company director for a refrigeration contracting company and eventually owning his own contracting company and low temperature cold store. He is now involved in adding skills to the ammonia industry, is merSETA accredited and has written a variety of unit standards for SAQA that define the levels to be achieved in training in our industry.

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