Suspected gas leak at Total refinery in Texas affects workers

Industrial Accidents

On May 12, 2009, there was reportedly a gas leak at Total’s Port Arthur refinery and petrochemical complex, which affected a few contract workers.

The gas was apparently Hydrogen Sulfide gas, but Total says that no evidence of a leak was found. However, it is unclear if any gas detectors were actually mounted near the area, or if they were, whether they could  detect H2S and finally, whether they were actually connected to an alarm system  (surprised?-not unusual, as this was exactly also the problem in the Bayer Cropscience, Institute, W.Va, incident ).

One of the affected workers, Brad Blount, said that he was carrying out a pipe fitting and welding job , high up on a scaffolding about 50 feet high, when he said he smelt the gas. He recognized it as Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). He immediately stopped his work, held his breath and clambered down. He was luckily not injured or badly affected, said reports on the web, posted by Beaumont Enterprise.

However, he has now quit working for Total, after this incident.

Apparently, Total does have personal gas monitors, but it is not clear if they were  issued to contract workers too. Personal gas monitors, can detect a variety of toxic gases and can alert the wearer to immediately evacuate in case of an emergency. They are widely used in the chemical and petrochemical industries, as a matter of routine. Costing less than a few hundred dollars each, they can be life savers in case of a gas leak.

Meanwhile, other reports say that five contract workers, who were hospitalized after the leak, have now been released. They were adversely affected by the gas and complained about shortness of breath, amongst other things. OSHA is reportedly watching the developments closely, amidst reports that Total has launched its own investigation into the incident.