CSB Animation and Analysis of Torrance Refinery Explosion

The United States Chemical Safety Board investigates industrial accidents related to chemical processing. It is an advisory agency that provides recommendations for improving safety in chemical related operations.

Some accident events are illustrated with animated reenactment, along with the events determined to be contributory to the cause. In the case of the Torrance, CA refinery explosion, the animation shows how a worn valve that did not provide adequate shutoff was part of the string of events that ultimately led to disaster. Also of concern was the procedure followed in responding to the discovery of an unexpected condition indicating substantial process malfunction.

Fortunately, the flammable gases were detected by personal safety gear, enabling workers to clear the area before ignition occurred.

The video describes how the process operated and what failed. The key takeaway is that a single failure condition can reveal another that may have gone undetected. Also, operating under adverse conditions, trying to formulate strategy, is difficult and may not produce the most effective plan.

Industrial processing can be complicated and dangerous. Diligence in design, installation, and continuing maintenance of process equipment is part of the overall safety plan for every facility.

Consider your own process and where weaknesses may be lurking. Reach out to equipment and instrumentation vendors for advice and expertise regarding specific items of concern.