In this month’s edition of the Hazmat Bulletin, we take a look back at the tragic explosion that occurred in a Chemical Plant located in Yancheng, China which is the worst industrial accident since the explosion in Tianjin back in 2015.
The death toll has now been quoted at 78 and the number injured is in the hundreds. Reports have stated that the cause of the blast initiated from a vehicle carrying compressed gas which caught fire and led to a secondary and more fatal explosion within a bulk chemical storage area containing a large volume of benzene.
“Local press reported that 176 fire trucks and 928 firefighters were initially involved in the incident. The South China Morning Post said the explosion was heard 40km away and China’s earthquake administration reported a tremor equivalent to 2.2-magnitude at the time of the explosion on the afternoon of March 21”
Benzene is a volatile and very dangerous material which has many adverse risks and side effects:
H225 Highly flammable liquid and vapour.
H304 May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways.
H315 Causes skin irritation.
H319 Causes serious eye irritation.
H340 May cause genetic defects.
H350 May cause cancer.
H372 Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.
H412 Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
An explosion with such a large volume of Benzene inevitably had catastrophic consequences for the primary area with so many people losing their lives but what must also be recognised is the secondary effects of the highly toxic plume dispersal which spread into the atmosphere from the flames. As Benzene is a molecularly dense material, harmful amounts of this material will remain in the atmosphere for a worrying period of time.
“In February 2018, China’s State Administration for Work Safety cited 13 types of safety hazards at the company, including mishandling of tanks of toxic benzene, the source of the explosion.”
Additional reports have stated that water sources in the locality have been heavily polluted with Dichloroethane and Dichloromethane which by their nature have a high COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) on rivers and other water sources which will cause serious side effects for aquatic life and also the risk to the human population consuming drinking water.
Public and Official Response
“After the Tianjin blasts in 2015, the government expanded inspections and toughened punishments for companies that violated safety standards. But many executives have cut corners under pressure to meet strict production targets, especially as China grapples with an economic slowdown”
“Public anger over safety standards has grown in China over industrial accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.”
President Xi Jinping has exclaimed that all efforts should now be invested to help the injured survivors and the state media are pushing authorities to drastically increase action to prevent disasters like what has happened in Yancheng from doing so again.
Safety Regulations for Hazardous Materials Use, Transport & Storage in China
There is no debating that there needs to be a serious change in the approach to enforcing safety in Chinese industry, particularly for Hazardous Materials or there will simply continue to be tragic accidents and innocent lives lost in the country.
Safety Legislation is written in Chinese law, but there seems to be continuous negligence to adhere to these laws and obviously, the penalties for such failures isn’t severe enough for the responsible organisations.
Below is a list of notable existing regulations in China for Hazardous Materials
It remains to be seen how safety culture in the country will change, although it is very evident that there is a need for drastic improvements for the people of China.
For any queries on hazardous materials stored on your site, please don’t hesitate to Contact Chemstore for any advice and guidance you require.
Additional Container Explosion