Petroleum refining is a high hazard industry posing a number of risks to workers. Corrosion of containers and equipment can cause accidents and leaks. Some industrial substances employees might use can cause irreversible skin damage. A little knowledge and preparation can go a long way to preventing serious injuries.
OSHA defines a corrosive as a chemical that causes visible destruction of living tissue by chemical action. With irritants, the inflammatory reaction can be reversed. Corrosive damage is permanent or irreparable.
Corrosive materials have a very low pH (acids) or a very high pH (bases). Strong bases are usually more corrosive than acids. Common corrosive materials include:
Large corrosion failures in the petroleum refinery industry are caused by unidentified hazards or ignored hazards. There’re variety of corrosion occurrences but only a few factors contributing to corrosion failure. Corrosive agents, exposure to certain conditions, and equipment composition are a few of those factors.
Change in processes and equipment are major challenges in managing refinery corrosion. Experts are concerned about corrosion failures causing major accidents.
Corrosion is manifested by ulcers, cell death, and scar formation. The Hazard Communication standard defines skin corrosion as irreversible skin damage, i.e., necrosis. Typical corrosive reactions include ulcers, bleeding, bloody scabs, and, after 14 days of observation, by discoloration due to blanching of the skin and scars.
The respiratory system, skin, and eyes are most commonly affected. Workers may be injured due to:
Corrosive substances can also damage containers and equipment, leading to leaks and spills. Uncontrolled corrosion can cause equipment to fail, endangering employees and the general public.
Methods to reduce corrosive hazards include:
Dispense corrosives from one container at a time and finish with one material before moving on to the next one. Be careful that dust, mists, vapors, and fumes aren’t released into the air when handling corrosives. Use a corrosion-resistant drum pump when transferring liquids.
Read the SDS on the substance before transporting, dispensing, or using a corrosive material. Use the correct personal protective equipment, such as protective gloves, aprons, and boots made of resistant materials. Protect your face and eyes by wearing chemical safety goggles, face shields, or face protectors.
Corrosive vapors, fumes, mists, and dusts can be dangerous, so avoid breathing them in. Use respirators for breathing protection as needed. Never use corrosives in swollen containers.
Effective training can save lives and prevent injuries. All employees have the right to know which hazards they may face on the job. Safety Data Sheets must be available for every hazardous substance. SDSs contain a wealth of valuable information, including:
Become familiar with the labels and signs for corrosives. The icon representing a corrosive is usually test tubes dripping sizzling liquid on a surface or a hand.
To protect yourself, you need to know which substances are corrosive and their hazards. Learn the safe ways to store, handle, and use corrosive substances.
Familiarity with environmental health and safety topics is a must when you’re working in certain industries.
About the Author
Matt Luman is our EHS Product Marketing Manager at. He is an OSHA-authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry and Construction. Prior to coming on board with the team, Matt worked for many years in the Oil and Gas Industry, spanning numerous sectors. He’s done everything he could in the industry, from washing trucks to developing EHS management systems. As EHS Product Marketing Manager, he is focused on creating lifelong industry