A Near Miss: A Narrowly Averted Catastrophic Explosion

Recently, a senior project manager at ASI recounted an experience that took place nearly thirty years ago. The short tale underscores the importance of QC and safety procedures, and having the courage to follow protocol.

As a young welder with limited experience, my colleague was called to a job in southern Saskatchewan.  His task was to perform a hot tap (installing a nozzle on an in-service tank) on a tank with highly volatile contents.  An old and surly maintenance supervisor, head of maintenance on the Saskatchewan site, was more interested in lost production than safety, and pressured our young welder to start up immediately.  Ron was in a quandary: perform mandatory NDE testing as he’d been trained, and incur the wrath of the much more experienced site sup, or relent and start work.

Ron ultimately decided to defy the unscrupulous sup and wait for the results of ultrasonic thickness testing before striking an arc.  Indeed, the UT confirmed a serious delamination precisely at the location of the hot tap. Had my colleague surrendered to the more senior maintenance foreman, he would have burned a hole through the shell.  The high current would have certainly ignited the tank contents, and he wouldn’t be alive today to tell the story.

Let this cautionary tale remind us of the importance of trusting in ourselves and following proven safety practices.


The perils of hydrocarbon ignition.

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