Safety Lessons for Midstream Pipeline Labs

Are safe lab operations a primary Health, Safety, and Environmental mandate for midstream pipeline companies? Of course – the real challenge is implementing best practices in the field.

Annual laboratory audits are required by:

  • ANSI/AIHA Z9.5-2003-6.4
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1450(e)3iii) and (4)

EcoFlex recently audited 15 pipeline Gauger and Sample Labs at ten locations in the U.S. and Canada. (Five of these labs were designed, prefabricated, and installed by EcoFlex using modular construction technology.)

We recertified all 15 labs, but found problems at most locations. All older labs were out of compliance on our first inspection. Typical problems included:

  • Inadequate enclosure of the sample work area: items that are supposed to be in fume hood, like open beakers and sample jars, are out in the open giving off hazardous VOC vapors.
  • Exhaust / supply air equipment failure: exhaust fans are often under-sized or improperly discharging (not adequately moving toxic air away from the building and personnel).

Newer labs also had airflow problems. Four systems needed supply / exhaust airflow balance recalibration to establish safe work environments. For example, several times we found that staff had restricted airflow while performing fan maintenance. Our team corrected and then retested simple, non-compliant conditions like this on the same day. Upon finding more complex problems, our audit team presented clients with recommendations for corrective action.

Management were often unaware of issues relating to non-compliance. We even found that operators at one non-compliant lab complained of nose bleeds on a previous audit. Field staff just fail to understand the consequences of altering system, process, and equipment parameters.

While midstream pipeline laboratory operating standards are developed based on regulations and best practices, we found that lab operators and maintenance staff often made their labs unsafe. Employee shortcuts, changes to the physical plant, and even equipment failure are all unpredictable.

Our observations of petroleum field labs found that maintaining safe laboratories requires annual feedback from experienced auditors, because these labs are full of potent risk factors.

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About EcoFlex

EcoFlex is a laboratory marketing collaboration led by Green Energy Hoods and G&K Development. It delivers flexible and cost-effective laboratory products known for innovative, intrinsically-safe, and energy saving features.

EcoFlex Modular Labs provide laboratory design, design/build, construction management, and general contracting services for petrochemical and other remote laboratory markets. We are licensed, bonded, insured, and listed with ISNetworld.

For information, please visit EcoFlex-Labs.com or call 219-365-3508 to learn more about these innovative technologies.

EcoFlex delivers cost-effective laboratory air-management solutions. With EcoFlex, you get high quality engineering focused on energy savings, safety, and smart ergonomic designs that maximize user satisfaction.

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