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  • 2014
  • Fertilizer And Agrochemicals Store Explosion
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Fertilizer And Agrochemicals Store Explosion

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Photo: Overall scene of the explosion effect on the fertilizer and agrochemicals store

An explosion occurred in a building used for storing fertilizer and agrochemicals - herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and fungicides. The impact of the explosion had brought down the building, causing massive damage to adjacent buildings, shattered glass and door panels on many nearby premises within a distance of 400-500 meter radius. 20 people including four children were injured and they mostly received outpatient treatment. The building is used to store fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. Investigation shows that before the incident, there were welding works being carried out to install extra racks adjacent to where Sodium Chlorate and Ammonium Nitrate were stacked. It is believed that a small fire started from the hot work activity and eventually led to a series of explosions.

Following this event, it is recommended that the following safety measures are taken:-

  1. Ensure building used as fertilizer or agrochemicals storage is well ventilated to mitigate any gaseous substance, and airborne dusts.
  2. Housekeeping should be maintained and materials are arranged in a systematic manner. It is recommended to clean the dust via suitable vacuum cleaner that is specially designed for that particular industry and efficient enough for the said purposes. This would ensure minimal airborne of agrochemical dust within the compound.
  3. To prevent spillage and contamination, make sure that the bags have been completely sealed on filling, are made of a material that is impermeable to water or oil, and are strong enough to withstand any damage during normal storage, handling and conveyance.
  4. Conduct routine checking and inspection for the purpose of detecting any spillage and immediately clean up any spillage found on any surfaces - floors, walls, etc.
  5. Ensure that bags of ammonium nitrate have been removed from the immediate area and contaminated items have been thoroughly washed to remove ammonium nitrate before allowing any maintenance work that involves heat such as welding or cutting to start.
  6. Sodium chlorate is a strong oxidizing agent. However the compound is not intrinsically dangerous. The danger arises if:
    1. they are allowed to mix intimately with potential fuels, including materials such as paper, sawdust and sugars;
    2. they are stored in such a way that they can become exposed to vigorous external heating in a fire situation;
    3. they are allowed to mix with acids or certain other chemicals.
    Therefore, storage requirement of sodium chlorate and hot work activity consideration should consider the above issues.
  7. Wooden pallets should not be used for the routine storage of sodium chlorates since, in addition to being a combustible material, they may, with continued use, become impregnated with chlorate and thereby themselves become a considerable fire risk and also a potential source of ignition. Any wooden pallets which are suspected of being contaminated with chlorate can be destroyed by burning under controlled conditions in an isolated area.
  8. To conduct risk assessment before carrying out any renovation work that involves welding or electrical works.
  9. Ensure information, instruction, guidance and training as well as effective supervision is given to operators or employees who conduct loading or unloading activities and any non routine activities such as welding and electrical works.
  10. Food, drinks and animal feedstuffs should be kept apart from the storage area of fertilizer and agrochemicals. Utilizing the place as family dwelling, especially children, within the vicinity of storage area are also not advisable.
  11. Regularly refer to any relevant department or government agencies on safe and proper standard practices for storage and arrangement methods involving agrochemicals which can decompose when exposed to heat, and when mixed with combustible substances.

References:-

  1. Storage and Use of Sodium Chlorate and other similar strong oxidants, Guidance Note CS3 - www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Storing and Handling Ammonium Nitrate, HSE Leaflet INDG230 - www.hse.gov.uk

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