Unexpected Nitrogen Dioxide Hazard Created by Hot Cutting Decontamination and Decommissioning Activities
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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Fluor BWXT Portsmouth, Portsmouth, OH (Fluor BWXT)

Published As:  Public

Date: 

Topics:  Respiratory Protection, Occupational Safety and Health, Work Management/Planning, Welding/Hot Work - Grinding

On December 19, 2013, an employee at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant reported he smelled a "chlorine-like" smell through his filtered respiratory protection equipment while conducting Plasma Torch hot cutting D&D activities. A "Stop Work" was put into place until the source of the odor could be identified and an evaluation of the adequacy of hazards controls could be completed. Industrial Hygiene sampling and investigation determined the presence of Nitrogen Oxide had been generated from the heat of the cutting operation.

Lessons Learned: Nitrogen Oxide heavier than air properties along with the Process Gas Systems large Bore Piping and components configurations, coupled with a practice of applying plastic covers over the system openings allowed the Nitrogen Oxide to accumulate to high levels in the system interior. As workers moved to different locations in the work area the air inlet of their Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) could infrequently be located near the system cut openings that were not yet covered and some of the escaping Nitrogen Oxide could be drawn into the PAPR. The PAPR filter employed is not NIOSH-certified to protect against Nitrogen Oxide.

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