Find links to industry-related reports of historical incidents relevant to process safety below. We hope learning about the causes of accidents and near misses that have occurred in the past will help you to prevent a reoccurrence today.
On April 17, 2013, a massive explosion at a fertilizer storage and distribution facility fatally injured 12 volunteer firefighters, two members of the public and caused hundreds of injuries.
BP Texas Refinery Explosion (2005)
A series of explosions occurred at the BP Texas City refinery during the restarting of a hydrocarbon isomerization unit. Fifteen workers were killed, and 180 others were injured. The explosions occurred when a distillation tower flooded with hydrocarbons and was over-pressurized, causing a geyser-like release from the vent stack.
Potters Bar Rail Crash (2002)
A northbound train derailed at high speed, killing seven and injuring 76. Part of the train ended up wedged between the station platforms and building structures.
The French town of Toulouse was rocked by a devastating chemical explosion when two production halls of the AZF fertilizer factory literally flew into the air. Initial reports spoke of 29 dead and 34 with severe injuries. A total of 2,400 were injured, most of them with cuts arising from splintered, flying glass.
Paddington/Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash (1999)
In the train crash at Ladbroke Grove, two miles outside London’s Paddington Station, 31 people died and 400 were injured. It was the worst railway disaster in Britain for over a decade.
Tokaimura Nuclear Accident (1999)
Three workers received high doses of radiation in a small Japanese plant preparing fuel for an experimental reactor. The accident was caused by bringing together too much uranium enriched to a relatively high level, causing a limited uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, which continued intermittently for 20 hours. A total of 119 people received a radiation dose over 1 mSv from the accident, but only the three operators' doses were above permissible limits. Two of the doses proved fatal.
Morton Thiokol Fire and Explosion (1998)
An explosion and fire occurred during the production of Automate Yellow 96 Dye at the Morton International Inc. plant in Paterson, NJ. The explosion and fire were the consequence of a runaway reaction, which over pressurized a 2,000-gallon chemical vessel and released flammable material that ignited. A total of nine employees were injured.
Western Electrochemical Co. Explosion (1997)
A 70-foot-high chemical explosion at the Western Electrochemical Co. in 1997 killed one worker and critically injured another. Officials believe this explosion likely started from a spark in a clogged dust collector.
Visakhapatnam Refinery Fire and Explosion (1997)
Fire engulfed four LPG tanks at the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL) refinery and spread to adjoining bunkers of the Indian Oil Corporation, killing an estimated 51 people.
Guadalajara, Mexico Sewer Explosions (1992)
In April 1992, a series of ten explosions took place in Guadalajara city, Jalisco state, Mexico. Numerous gas explosions in the sewer system lasting over four hours destroyed 8 kilometers (5 miles) of streets. Reports estimate about 252 people were killed, 500 to 600 missing, nearly 500 injured and 15,000 were left homeless.
Phillips 66 Refinery Chemical Release (1989)
On October 23, 1989, the Phillips 66 chemical complex near Houston, TX experienced a chemical release on the polyethylene plant. A flammable vapor cloud formed and subsequently ignited, resulting in a massive vapor cloud explosion. Following this initial explosion, there was a series of further explosions and fires. The consequences of the explosions resulted in 23 fatalities and between 130 – 300 people were injured. Extensive damage to the plant facilities occurred.
Hillsborough Football Stadium (1989)
The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, England in April 1989 during the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. It resulted in 96 fatalities and 766 injuries.
Piper Alpha Explosion (1988)
A major leak of gas condensate resulted in an explosion on the production deck of Piper Alpha. The fire and explosions resulted in the structural collapse of the platform into the sea. One hundred and sixty-five people of the 226 on board were killed. In addition, two people in the Sandhaven fast rescue craft did not survive.
Challenger Accident (1986)
On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the space shuttle they were piloting, the Challenger, exploded at just over a minute into the flight. The failure of the solid rocket booster O-rings to seal properly allowed hot combustion gases to leak from the side of the booster and burn through the external fuel tank. The failure of the O-ring was attributed to several factors, including faulty design of the solid rocket boosters, insufficient low-temperature testing of the O-ring material and of the joints that the O-ring sealed, and lack of proper communication between different levels of NASA management.
Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Disaster (1986)
The April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators. It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture. The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, and large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about 10 days.
Bhopal Chemical Release (1984)
Hundreds of people died from the effects of toxic gases that leaked from a chemical factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal. The accident happened on the night of December 2, 1984 at the American-owned Union Carbide Pesticide Plant, located three miles (4.8 km) from Bhopal.
PEMEX LPG Terminal Accident (1984)
In November 1984, a major fire and a series of catastrophic explosions occurred at the government owned and operated PEMEX LPG Terminal at San Juan Ixhuatepec, Mexico City. As a consequence of these events, approximately 500 individuals were killed, and the terminal was destroyed.
Seveso Chemical Release (1976)
In July of 1976, a bursting disc on a chemical reactor ruptured at an industrial plant owned by ICMESA (Industrie Chimiche Meda Società Azionaria) near Seveso, Italy. Among the substances in the white cloud was a small deposit of TCDD or dioxin, a highly toxic material. No human deaths were attributed to the incident, but many individuals fell ill and 26 pregnant women who had been exposed to the release had abortions. Thousands of animals in the contaminated area died and many thousands more were slaughtered to prevent TCDD entering the food chain.
Brown's Ferry Nuclear Reactor Incident (1976)
The fire started at BFN in March 1975 by a worker using a lit candle to check for air leaks. This risky action ignited a temporary polyurethane cable penetration seal. The fire quickly spread into the polyurethane seal and cables, causing significant damage to the cable spreading room and Unit 1 reactor building. The Factory Mutual Engineering Association of Norwood, MA concluded that a re-evaluation should be made of the arrangement of important electrical circuitry and control systems to establish that safe shutdown controls in the normal and redundant systems are routed in separated and adequately protected areas.
In June 1974, the Nypro chemical works site at Flixborough was severely damaged by a large explosion. Twenty-eight workers were killed and another 36 suffered injuries. Offsite consequences resulted in 53 reported injuries. Property in the surrounding area was damaged to a varying degree.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor Meltdown (1972)
In March 1979, the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor near Middletown, PA partially melted down. A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to TMI-2's partial meltdown and the very small off-site releases of radioactivity. Although there were no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public, its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also led to the NRC to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. These collective changes have significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety.
Apollo 13 Accident (1970)
The Apollo 13 malfunction was caused by an explosion and rupture of oxygen tank no. 2 in the service module. The explosion ruptured a line or damaged a valve in the no. 1 oxygen tank, causing it to lose oxygen rapidly. The service module bay no. 4 cover was blown off. All oxygen stores were lost within about three hours, along with loss of water, electrical power, and use of the propulsion system.
Feyzin Refinery Incident (1966)
In January 1966, a spectacular fire occurred at the Feyzin refinery in France, killing 18 people, injuring 81 and destroying five of the storage spheres. A BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion) occurred when the sphere ruptured after a fire. This resulted in a fireball that killed and injured firemen as well as spectators. Flying missiles broke the legs of an adjacent sphere which later BLEVE’d.
The Texas City Disaster (1947)
On April 16, 1947, the ship SS Grandcamp exploded at 9:12 A.M. at the docks in Texas City. The French-owned vessel, carrying explosive ammonium nitrate produced during wartime for explosives and later recycled as fertilizer, caught fire early in the morning, and while attempts were being made to extinguish the fire, the ship exploded. The entire dock area was destroyed, along with the nearby Monsanto Chemical Company, other smaller companies, grain warehouses, and numerous oil and chemical storage tanks. The exact number of people killed will never be known. The ship's anchor monument records indicate that 576 persons died; 398 of whom were identified and 178 listed as missing. The disaster brought changes in chemical manufacturing and new regulations for the bagging, handling, and shipping of chemicals.
New London School Disaster (1937)
In March 1937, an instructor in the shop class turned on a sanding machine in an area which, unknown to him, was filled with a mixture of gas and air. In an instant a good part of the building disintegrated in an explosion that could be heard for miles. A spark had ignited accumulated natural gas from a leak in a crawl space beneath the school. Almost 300 students and teachers died in the blast.
The Great Halifax Explosion (1917)
On December 6, 1917 in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel. The massive explosion killed more than 1,800 people, injured another 9,000 – including blinding 200 – and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes.
Sinking of the Sultana (1865)
An estimated 1,500–1,900 passengers were killed in April 1865 when three of the four boilers on the Mississippi River Steamboat Sultana exploded and sank near Memphis, TN. The incident caused one of the 100 deadliest fires ever and claimed more lives than the Titanic. The Sultana explosion can be linked to many industry and legislation improvements, including safety regulations and inspection services.
Hindenburg Disaster (1937)
In May 1937, the German passenger zeppelin Hindenburg, hovering 300 feet in the air and held aloft by seven million cubic feet of hydrogen gas, burst into flames while preparing to dock at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, NJ. The ensuing fire consumed the massive airship in only 35 seconds. In the aftermath, 35 of 97 people onboard died (13 passengers and 22 crewmen) plus one member of the ground crew.
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