Disconnection of Fittings Sprays Caustic
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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Washington River Protection Solutions, Hanford Site (WRPS)

Published As:  Public

Date: 

Topics:  Chemical Safety, Office/Home Safety, Operations

Venting of systems is paramount when attempting to disconnect fittings. Adhere to strict Conduct of Operations principles, attention to detail, peer checking, and situational awareness for changing conditions. This spray resulted in a near miss concerning personnel exposure to a hazardous chemical and resulted in delays for completing the caustic addition. Pressurized systems have been found to be extremely dangerous, and accidents/fatalities have been the result of exposure to pressurized systems.

On April 2nd, 2013, during the off-loading of caustic solution (sodium hydroxide) from a vendors tanker trailer to tank 241-AN-102, a drip wise leak of 25% caustic solution was detected at the air blow tee adaptor between the tanker trailer and the caustic hose connected to riser adaptor at 102-AN. The tanker trailer and this connection were located outside of 241-AN Farm. While attempting to disconnect the air blow tee, less than one cup of caustic solution sprayed out. Droplets of caustic solution contacted the left arm sleeve of the venders personal protective equipment (PPE) and torso area of the Nuclear Chemical Operators PPE who were located within the control boundary area. Additionally, droplets of caustic solution sprayed outside the control boundary area within a few feet of other workers who were not wearing PPE. The caustic addition was stopped when the leak occurred and was repaired.

This event placed personnel at risk of exposure to a hazardous chemical and resulted in delays in completing the caustic addition. The significant potential consequences were mitigated due to personnel wearing the proper PPE to protect against chemical hazards and a well-coordinated response to the leak once it occurred.

RECOMMENDATIONS - to prevent recurrence
- Ensure the boundary size is adequate to prevent people without PPE from encountering the hazard.
- Perform strong and timely communication to management on magnitude of the event.
- Prior to breaching a system boundary with hazardous chemical for repairs, always obtain positive verification to preclude exposure of personnel from spray; never assume the system is depressurized.
-Include installation of a "drape" (encapsulating the connection points) in the work process to provide an additional barrier for protection of personnel.

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