Wednesday, June 25, 2003

CSB Releases Nitrogen Hazard Bulletin

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released a new safety bulletin that presents a series of good safety practices to prevent nitrogen-related incidents. Asphyxiations, many of which occurred in confined spaces, cause 80 fatalities in the U.S. over the last decade. In addition to the full safety bulletin, the CSB has developed a one-page safety brochure and a downloadable Powerpoint® presentation on nitrogen hazards.
As part of this project, the CSB reviewed a number of nitrogen asphyxiation incidents that have occurred in the past decade. Findings from this study included the following:

  • 85 incidents occurred in the past decade that resulted in an average of 8 deaths and 5 injuries each year;

  • Causes of the incidents included personnel not knowing they were entering an oxygen-depleted environment or not realizing that the environment had changed, and also mistaking nitrogen gas for breathing air;

  • Incidents occurred in a variety of settings including chemical plants, food processing and storage facilities, laboratories, and medical facilities;

  • Almost half the incidents and over 60% of the fatalities involved contractors, including construction workers;

  • A number of deaths were caused by personnel attempting rescue without proper training and equipment.