Monday, January 29, 2018

"leaked out of control. 56 people suffered minor injuries...."

When the Aluminium Plant Safety Blog visits plants (with furnaces) we always ask “What are your emergency plans for a catastrophic furnace lining failure?” We then ask, where are your supplies? In our opinion the older the plant the more prepared they are. That could because they have had an incident and realize the importance of having enough supplies readily available to handle a large molten spill. In our opinion the newer plants fail to acknowledge this potential hazard and commonly will state that they will call the local fire department for assistance. Which we respond, “Do you believe that the local fire department has enough supplies on their trucks to handle a large spill at your plant?” If they answer yes, we respond have you confirmed your assumptions?  

Here is a recent incident involving a furnace lining failure.

In an industrial hall in Germany on the evening of January 22, around 7 pm, aluminum, which had a temperature of 700 degrees, leaked out of control. 56 people suffered minor injuries.

According to initial findings due to a technical defect of a melting furnace approx. 700 degrees hot aluminum ran out uncontrolled and put stored pallets loaded with granules and cement sacks on fire.

Eight employees brought to hospitals

In addition, according to the police noted several holes in the furnace, which accelerated the outflow of the liquid metal. Cooling was no longer possible due to the defect. Due to heavy smoke in the industrial hall, 56 employees suffered minor injuries in the form of headache, nausea and respiratory problems. As a precaution, eight employees were transported to hospitals in three nearby cities for further treatment.

Sandwall stops the liquid metal

The forces deployed by several fire brigades of the district, including the fire brigade from the local international airport were able to cool down the hot aluminum by adding water and set up a sandwall around the relevant smelting furnace, thus stopping the untargeted runoff of the liquid metal.

In addition, technical advisors of the company and two uniformed patrols of police inspection were in use. The resulting material damage is according to first estimates in the lower five-digit range (update 300,000 Euros). With regard to the resulting fire damage, no estimate could be made at the time of use. The investigation of the exact cause of the accident takes over the police.

We pray that the injured workers recover fully from their injuries. We acknowledge that the following statement reads as being overly dramatic. But, this plant is very lucky not to have blown up. Our industry’s history is littered with factories that suffered severe explosions after a furnace failed and the molten metal came into contact with water on bare concrete, steel or stainless substrates.
This aluminium plant in 2015 had a catastrophic furnace failure. The workers soon realized that they could not stop or contain the 60,000 pounds of molten metal from escaping the furnace from multiple holes. So they evacuated the building. The resulting explosions destroyed the building. Luckily the 30 workers who were there survived with minor injuries (hearing).

This incident was made more severe that the escaped molten metal set combustibles on fire. So, not only did the fire fighters have to deal with the molten metal they too had to fight a fire. Luckily no one was injured. It is important that combustible material not be stored near a working furnace. If it does, instead of wood pallets, either use aluminium or steel. Never use wood pallets for storage (even temporary) around a working furnace.

Can your plant answer this question are you prepared for a large molten metal spill?

Please comment.

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