BRMs Present New Occupational Safety Considerations


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BRMs Present New Occupational Safety Considerations


Publication: BIC Magazine

Seventeen years after being introduced, blast-rated modules (BRMs) are now commonplace in chemical plants and refineries. It is estimated there are upward of 5,000 BRMs in operation in North America, occupied by an average of 4-5 people/BRM. Aside from their typical rectangular appearance, one of the most noticeable attributes of BRMs is their heavy blast doors. The estimated 20,000-plus people who work in BRMs can attest the doors are extremely heavy and can be a source of ongoing maintenance to hardware. The doors can also cause occupational injuries. The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index helps employers, risk managers and safety practitioners make workplaces safer by identifying critical risk areas so businesses can better allocate safety resources. Annually, the index ranks the top 10 causes of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries and their direct costs to U.S. businesses. According to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the most disabling, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $62 billion in direct U.S. workers compensation costs. Overexertion involving outside sourc-
es ranked first among the leading causes of disabling injury. This category includes injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing objects; cost businesses $15.08 billion in direct costs; and accounted for 24.4 percent of the overall national burden. Constant pulling on heavy blast doors can be the source of an overexertion injury. With upward of tens of thousands of heavy blast door openings on a daily basis in plants and refineries throughout North America, it is an issue worthy of attention. When such injuries occur and are not properly addressed, sometimes the courts are left to make judicial decisions. In one case (Baziza Laib vs. State Insurance Fund/ Workers Comp Board), the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, who was injured by continued repetitive use of a heavy door. The motion stated, “While accidental injury must arise from unusual environmental conditions or events assignable to something extraordinary, it need not result suddenly or from the immediate application of some external force but may accrue gradually over a reason-
ably definite period of time. Being forced to negotiate heavy metal and glass doors connected to a tight spring in order to gain access to or leave your office building is not the natural and unavoidable result of employment as an office worker.” It is human nature to take measures to eliminate difficult tasks. In attempts to avoid navigating the heavy doors, sometimes the doors are propped open with a board or rock. This in itself is a safety hazard in the event of a blast. The blast engineering calculations that quantified the blast rating of the BRM assume a blast door that meets or exceeds the same blast ratings as the building and that it will be closed at the time of an explosion. Without the doors being closed, pressure within the building could be fatal to its occupants. There is no simple solution to this situation, but there are several occupational safety recommendations that can minimize or mitigate injury: 1. Proper training — Training occupants in the proper methods how to open heavy doors. In 2013, the National Safety Council published a recommended action


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