Worker doused in sugarcane mud and liquid

Tuesday, 27 August, 2019

Worker doused in sugarcane mud and liquid

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Queensland are investigating after a release of hot sugarcane mud and liquid left an evaporative plant operator with extensive burns to his upper body. He was unblocking a tank flange when the incident occurred.

Before starting plant work, sugar mill operators must develop a risk register, assess the risks, implement controls, and monitor and review control systems to ensure they remain effective. Hazards associated with repairing, maintaining or cleaning plants, such as substances in pipeline systems that may harm workers due to extreme pressure, high or low temperatures or hazardous chemicals, must also be identified. Workers and employers must try to eliminate any dangers to WHS; however, if that is not reasonably practicable then they must work to minimise risk according to the hierarchy of controls.

This may be done by substituting the risk-causing hazard with something of lesser risk — for example, reducing the temperature and pressure of the substance before removing flanges for cleaning and isolating the hazard from workers. Here, hazards may be isolated using manual mechanical isolation valves that separate the section of pipe being cleaned or maintained from the system pressure or by applying isolation and lockout devices to pipeline isolation valves, such as multi-lock or code-lock, danger tags, out-of-service tags or mechanical devices, such as bars, clamps, chains or component removal.

Workers could also purge or bleed pipeline contents and/or pressure from the isolated section of pipe before removing flanges. Importantly, WHS Queensland advised that stored energy, such as pneumatic valves which fail safe without a mechanical isolator, should not be used to effect isolation and that isolation systems and circuits should be regularly tested. To reduce the risk of blockage, workers and employers may need to look at implementing engineering controls such as redesigning the pipeline and flanges.

Any remaining risk must be addressed using administrative controls, such as implementation of safe work systems for hot work, lockout points and isolation procedures; providing appropriate training to workers required to comply with isolation procedures; and conducting periodic reviews of those procedures. Reviews are particularly important when the plant is modified or replaced or a new plant is introduced to the system.

Additionally, trained and authorised personnel should be used for isolation procedures in each work area and all isolations and lockouts should be tested by competent persons before work commences. Processes and authority for overriding any interlocks should also be in place. Finally, personal protective equipment, such as liquid- and thermal-resistant clothing, footwear, face shields and gloves, must be used to protect workers from any residual risk.

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