Letter: Chemical accidents can be avoided

Another offshore accident has cost the lives and jobs of workers because of poor safety performance. Having worked in the chemical industry for more than 30 years, and being responsible for the safety of workers, including issuing burn permits, I know that these accidents are avoidable. Plants where I worked involved the transfer, storage and processing of such hazardous materials as toluene, TNT, strong nitric and sulfuric acids, and explosive gases, among other things.

The numerous chemical plant workers in the Baton Rouge area know the proper way to handle materials they use. Before issuing a permit to weld on a pipe that had contained hazardous material, it was mandatory to flush the line with inert gas or water and usually to keep the line filled with the inert substance. Nitrogen and carbon dioxide were commonly used.

So why do we keep hearing about the problems on offshore oil rigs? Possibly the worker is doing his job without waiting for a permit, but that is extremely unlikely. What is more likely is that management is saving time and money by cutting out some of the safety procedures.

Some countries cite management with crimes when they are the cause of worker deaths. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

Doug Johnson

retired engineer