The Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) has developed a process for managing chemical reactivity hazards, such as water-reactive/pyrophoric sodium hydride. This coupled with a recent fire while handling sodium hydride, at a pharmaceutical production facility, revealed gaps in the handling and emergency response process as well as in the emergency response materials used for spills of sodium hydride. A detailed action plan (DAP) was developed for personnel handling sodium hydride, as well as emergency first responders. The DAP identified actions in the event of a spill or fire for material handlers, emergency first responders, and the subsequent safe disposition of the contained material. Development of the DAP for sodium hydride required in-house testing of various fire-extinguishing agents and the benchmarking of best practices within the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The optimum method or template chosen to develop the DAP was adaptable to conditions both in warehouses and in production buildings. Laboratory testing followed by field testing with up to 0.5 kg of sodium hydride identified damp sand in combination with liquid nitrogen as the superior agents to smother, contain, and permit transport to a suitable disposition area for destruction of unreacted sodium hydride. The template and method used to create the sodium hydride DAP may have applications for other water-reactive/pyrophoric reagents.
The use of wet sand with liquid nitrogen as a smothering agent promises to be a unique and potentially breakthrough method for smothering and transporting spilled water-reactive/pyrophoric reagents. Additional testing is planned for other water-reactive/pyrophoric reagents to assess the use of these emergency response materials and to develop additional DAPs. © 2005 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog