Applying inherently safer concepts to a phosgene plant acquisition



During the 1980's Dow Chemical acquired a urethanes business in Europe consisting of two major installations. These plants were of immediate concern due to large-scale production and use of phosgene at one of the sites. Even though Dow has considerable experience in the bandling of chlorine, they had limited experience with phosgene in Europe. After the impact of the acquistion was assessed, a high-level transition team was appointed by the Vice President of Manufacturing in Europe to evaluate and manage risk factors in the accquired units. Safety in manufacturing was the first item on their agenda.

In many cases the activities of the transition team were driven by the principles of Inherently Safer Process Design (Substitute, Minimize or Intensify, Moderate or Attenuate and finally Simplify). The net effect of the work done since acquisition is that risk exposure to the public in the adjacent village has been considerably reduced. In addition, fugitive emissions of toxic materials have been eliminated. Economic evaluation since the projects were enacted has demonstrated that many of the activities could have been justified purely on the basis of return on investment.