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NIOSH alert: preventing worker injuries and deaths from explosions in industrial ethylene oxide sterilization facilities.

Palassis J; Sweeney Haring M
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 20-25, 2000, Orlando, Florida. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2000 May; :72
NIOSH, in collaboration with the U.S. EPA and the Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Association, developed an Alert to raise awareness about the potential for ethylene oxide (EtO) explosions and ways to prevent explosions in industrial ethylene oxide sterilization facilities. The Alert is intended for the owners, managers, supervisors, engineers, safety professionals, and workers involved in industrial sterilization or repackaging of EtO. EtO is a flammable liquid; its vapors can easily form explosive mixtures during sterilization procedures. If these explosive atmospheres are vented to certain emission control devices such as oxidizing emission control devices (OECDs), a significant explosion might result. Between 1994 and 1998, 10 explosions involving EtO occurred in industrial sterilization and EtO repackaging facilities. An explosion incident at an EtO repackaging facility caused 1 worker fatality and 59 injuries. All incidents resulted in damage to the facilities. Most of these facilities used OECDs to control EtO emissions. There are more than 200 industrial sterilization facilities in the states. Many facilities use wet scrubbers to remove approximately 95% of EtO emission, and there were no problems with explosions with these devices. However, to meet the new EPA regulations and increase the removal/destruction efficiency of EtO, many facilities selected and installed OECDs, and that where the problems emerged. In the future, EPA might also require hospitals to use such emission control devices to control ethylene oxide releases to the atmosphere from their sterilization units, resulting in a greater risk for explosions and worker injuries.
Flammable-gases; Workers; Explosive-gases; Explosion-prevention; Accident-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Personal-protective-equipment; Control-technology; Ethylenes; Oxides; Industrial-education; Catalysis; Oxidizers; Vapors; Gas-mixtures; Explosive-atmospheres; Emission-sources; Industrial-emissions; Industrial-gases; Control-methods; Control-systems
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 20-25, 2000, Orlando, Florida
Page last reviewed: November 6, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division