How Tianjin China Chemical Warehouse Explosion could have been avoided if OHSAS 18001 was in place

Tianjin China Explosion :

Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd. which handles the transport of hazardous goods had a catastrophic accident and an explosion in their warehouse on August 12, 2015, near Tianjin Port located in the North East of China, One of the worst accidents seen by China in the recent days.

The Tianjin warehouse was storing hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide, well above the legal limit, and was also situated too close to residential area. The explosions sent fireballs high into the sky and hurled flaming debris across the port, burning out buildings and shattering windows of apartments kilometers away.

Tianjin Explosions


What Went Wrong?

The accident took place in Tianjin port of North East China at a warehouse of Ru Hai International Logistics Co which contained hazardous and flammable chemicals, including calcium carbide, sodium cyanide, potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and sodium nitrate. What triggered the fire is still unknown.There have been suggestions that water sprayed on some of the chemicals could have led to the subsequent blasts.

Calcium carbide, known to be present at the site, reacts with water to create the highly explosive acetylene. Chemical experts suggest an acetylene blast could then have detonated the other chemicals for a much larger blast.

About 700 tons of Sodium Cyanide was present at the site. It is soluble in water and, when dissolved or burnt, it releases the highly poisonous gas Hydrogen Cyanide.

Effect of Explosion and Direct Loss

Large shipping containers were tossed into the air like matchsticks and were crumpled by the blasts.A logistics park containing several thousand cars was incinerated by the fireball. Renault lost some 1,500 of its cars.  Hyundai lost around 4,000 cars. It was reported by reputed News channels that Mining giant BHP Billiton operations and shipments partially disrupted.  Toyota reportedly closed production lines at its factories near Tianjin, John Deere Agricultural machinery manufacturer suspended work indefinitely.

  • The owner of Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics, warehouse is in Jail
  • Business shut down
  • 135 people dead.
  • Approximately 700 people injured
  • Approximately 17,000 homes damaged
  • Environmental catastrophe
  • Loss of business
  • Thousand relocated & evacuated
  • Port activities disrupted-one of the 10 largest & busiest port in the world
  • Damage of Image of Corporate China !

Source :cnn

Relevance of BS OHSAS 18001:2007 Standard. in this scenario.

BS OHSAS 18001:2007 requirements are so very relevant in this scenario and I am in the firm opinion that a principled and skillful application and implementation of OHSAS 18001 standard could have prevented this catastrophe.
A well management OH&S management system ensures that the top management is committed to provide a safe and healthful place of work, prevent accidents and incidents to ensure business continues within the framework of legal and other requirement. Tianjin explosion in China on tell us different story
Let’s see what might have gone wrong and what could have prevented the accident

  1. OH&S Policy expressed by a committed Top Management to prevent accident, incident and ill health (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No.4.2)
  2. Measurable OH&S objectives and program to achieve those (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 3.3.3) 
  3. Organizations compliance to Legal and other requirement. (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 3.3.2). Was there any deviation to law in China concerning bulk storage of such chemical? Yes, it was. It was reported that Chemicals were stored much above the allowable limits.                   This raises question of governmental control mechanism or surveillance of such high risk facilities in close vicinity of one of the largest port in the world in a city with a population of around 15 million!
  4. Can they store the chemicals in such thickly populated area? (Risk assessment OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.3.1) 
  5. Design of Work area. Should’nt there be a mandatory detection and mitigation system in place to control emergency.?
  6. Was there a communication people within the organization and its stake holders such as neighbors, common people, and Government agencies as to what the warehouse contains and how to respond in case of any emergency? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No Clearly this was absent. Even firefighters were unaware of, how to fight such catastrophic fire. No one seem aware of what to do, how to act immediately!
  7. Was Hazard identification and risk assessment performed?(OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.3.1) .
  8. Whether Risk control measures were Determined and control established based on risk control hierarchy? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.3.1) 
  9. Was there any emergency (disaster management) preparedness and response procedure and procedure tested and validated? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4..4.7) 
  10. Was there any Stipulated Operating Criteria absence of which could have leadto this accident? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.4.6.e)
  11. Were the people aware of the hazards and the risk and were they Competent to respond to such emergencies? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.4.2) .Several firefighters died and sprayed water to contain the fire which had further escalated the fire to catastrophic level?
  12. Was there any internal audit by the organization by competent auditors? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.5.5) 
  13. Was there any review of Performance of hazards, risk, risk assessment, determination and implementation of established controls by the top management? (OHSAS 18001:2007 Cl. No 4.6) 

All these are requirements of OHSAS 18001:2007 standard. I feel Government has a great stake in enforcing OH&S management system to protect life of people, safeguarding assets and environment.

About TCB:

TCB endeavors to develop outstanding OH&S professionals and auditors .We go in great depth of it to develop complete understanding of the requirement and the intent of the standard. In TCB’s IRCA Approved OH&S Auditor/ Lead Auditor program we use OHSAS 18001:2007 standard as audit criteria and ISO 19011:2011, how to audit OH&S management system.

Please refer to course details and IRCA approval of TCB’s OHSAS 18001:2007 Auditor/Lead auditor course (A 17704). TCB OHSAS lead auditor course is rated to be one of the best in its class. TCB is in an elite league of only 35 organizations in the world approved by IRCA as a Training organization to offer OH&S Auditor/Lead auditor course.

This knowledge helps manager to bring in a systematic approach to management of Occupational Health&Safety to ensure a safer and healthful place of work and auditors to assess effectiveness of implementation OH&S management system to ensure organization realizes its goals without any disruption due to accidents.

Acknowledgement: Some of the information about the incident has been taken from information in public domain and BBC. This article is intended solely for the purpose of knowledge sharing to create a safer and healthful place of work, one of the mission of TCB.

Images courtesy cnn,

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