Ergonomic Factors Associated with Minor Sulfuric Acid Burn Incident

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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  URS CH2M Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge, TN

Published As:  Public


Topics:  Chemical Safety, Environmental Protection, Maintenance, Work Management/Planning

A Chemical Operator was replacing an empty sulfuric acid tote with a full tote as part of routine operations. The vendor supplied totes contain approximately 350 gallons of 93% Sulfuric Acid. The connection is made via a reinforced, flexible hose with Cam-Lock fittings. Isolation is provided by a plastic ball valve on the tote side of the connection and a stainless steel ball valve at the end of the hoses closest connection with the tote. Further isolation from the active system is provided at the header just adjacent to the tote storage position.

While attempting to secure the Cam-Lock connection, the Chemical Operator had difficulty locking the left lever on the Cam-Lock fitting. He adjusted the fitting and again attempted to secure the lever, at which time Sulfuric Acid began to leak from the connection area. He reached to force the totes ball valve closed to stop the leak. The Chemical Operator adjusted his body position to the position of the valves and fittings that are near ground level of the dike. He inadvertently bumped the bottom of his face shield against his chest, causing it to rise from the vertical position. When reaching to reposition the face shield for protection, he felt burning on his face and cheek that was attributed to an acid exposure. He immediately rinsed the facial area at a nearby safety shower and proceeded to the restroom to wash face, hands, and arms with soap and water.

Lessons Learned: Human engineering and human factors should be considered when designing a facility. Improved equipment and facility design can lead to improved human performance and reduction of human error; thereby, lowering personnel exposure time and risk in hazardous areas.

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