A lifetime of good advice

CIRIA reports on good practice guidance for tank users and makers

The storage of chemicals continues to offer a threat to both the environment and people, resulting in more than 1,700 substantiated water pollution incidents in England and Wales in 2001. In January of this year a boatyard worker suffered 83% burns from an explosion in a chemical tank into which he had been lowered as part of a cleaning operation. Chemical fumes overcame another man who helped free the victim. A recent prosecution resulted in a fine of £12,000 for the release of sodium hypochlorite from a WTW following the installation of faulty equipment by a contractor. The chemicals flowed to a nearby brook resulting in a fish kill. A fine of £70,500 was made in 2001 to a water company for a range of offences relating to water pollution.

Incidents such as these reinforce our need to constantly strive for improvements in health and safety and pollution prevention. In financial terms alone, the potential value of guidance that reduces these incidents is significant. In response to this need CIRIA initiated a project in June 2002 to review, develop and encourage the adoption of good practice in chemical storage tank systems throughout their lifecycle, including the design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance.

The project focuses on permanent chemical storage systems (including secondary containment such as bunds) above 200-litres in size and will provide information targeted at system manufacturers, constructors and installers and those involved in operating and maintaining existing or newly-constructed facilities. Ultimately, the project expects uptake of the good practice guidance to reduce the number of pollution incidents occurring and reduce health and safety and environmental impacts. Improved storage and containment of potentially hazardous materials also reduces health and safety risks to staff operating the facilities and those involved in clean up operations following spillages. This risk reduction has associated cost benefits to companies.

The project is jointly funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA), reflecting the risks involved and potential impacts of poor practice. Also working with CIRIA on the project is Posford Haskoning which has extensive knowledge of working with tank systems worldwide. CIRIA has actively pursued research into pollution prevention for decades and encourages its members and other industry stakeholders to promote the adoption of good practice and invest in collaborative research projects. Past projects include Control of Water Pollution from Construction Sites (C532), Water Pollution Prevention from Construction - training pack (SP156), Design of Containment Systems for the Prevention of Water Pollution from Industrial Incidents (R164) and Construction of Bunds for Oil Storage Tanks (R163). However, there remains a lack of comprehensive guidance on chemical storage systems, which remain a significant source of pollution incidents.

Responding to this need, CIRIA's latest project offers a good opportunity to bring together lessons learned from across industry for general use and to gain collective advantage through collaboration. At the outset of the project CIRIA appointed a project steering group (PSG) of eighteen people representing a diversity of stakeholder interests including government and regulators, construction companies, consultants, water companies, fertiliser manufacturers, insurance industry and a range of industry associations. Through regular meetings and a review of materials, the group steered the project from definition of project scope and identifying audience needs through to technical review and agreeing good practice.

Nick Berentzen, head of occupational safety at the Chemical Industries Association, and PSG member, said of the report: "It should be invaluable in terms of managing health and safety to have so much useful information available on all aspects of bulk chemical storage in one publication". The project started with a review of past failure modes and collation of good and bad practice case studies. There followed a literature review of existing guidance and a comprehensive assessment of current and forthcoming UK and EU legislation relevant to chemical storage systems throughout their lifecycle, before moving on to define good practice. Finally, the guidance has identified potential advances, and the need for advances, that will allow reductions in the risks of pollution - including soil and groundwater pollution - and health and safety. Throughout the process, industry representatives have been consulted to gather lessons learned and share experiences.

In January 2003, CIRIA held an open-invitation workshop to discuss the project findings so far and obtain feedback on technical content. The style and suitability of the document for practical use was also discussed. Delegates were given the opportunity to influence the nature of the final product and contribute their own experience and case studies to the materials. More than 30 people attended the day and others provided feedback via correspondence. In addition to collating technical comments on the material, the workshop stimulated interesting cross-industry conversations and common problems were discussed.

The project will result in two complimentary documents, due for publication in autumn of this year. The first will be a comprehensive report on good practice, clearly structured in steps throughout the storage system lifecycle, and including a review of relevant legislation applicable to each stage. The second product will be a brief, summary guidance document to highlight important information for use by construction professionals, system owners and users. The documents will be available directly from CIRIA or from either the HSE or the EA. CIRIA will also run two free seminars in the autumn to launch the guidance. Dates will be announced on the CIRIA website and in CIRIA's e-newsletter. The challenge going forward will be for all of us to promote the uptake of the guidance as widely as possible



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