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‘Whistle’ Saves Workers Before Tank Blast

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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Authorities are investigating the explosion of  a tank during lining removal at the headquarters of  Duratech Systems LLC in the Detroit suburb of Redford, MI.

Two employees who were working on the tank at the time narrowly escaped injury when the tank made a “whistling” sound before the blast at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday (Jan. 11), causing them to flee, said Redford Township Fire Chief Jim Gomulka.

The blast rocked the foundation of another business several hundred yards away and knocked down ceiling tiles there, Gomulka said. Numerous area residents phoned the township to report the blast.

No Hazardous Emissions

Fire from the explosion died down within seconds, as firefighters arrived on the scene.

The workers, whose names were not released, did not require emergency transport but were seen at a local medical clinic as a precaution, authorities said. The state Department of Environmental Quality evaluated the scene and determined that no hazardous emissions had been released.

The company declined Wednesday (Jan. 12) to discuss the incident.

Lack of Ventilation Reported

The tank—described by a township official as a storage tank—was located in an outbuilding at the Duratech complex. Gomulka described the building as a tall steel shed.

“It was explained to me that this tank was cleaned a couple of months ago, and it sat for two months and the two workers were removing the tank lining,” the chief said.

 “It was explained to me that they didn’t ventilate the tank so as to preclude a fire from occurring,” he added.
While the employees were working, they heard the tank “start to whistle” and “left the area quickly, much to their good fortune,” Gomulka said.

The outbuilding was extensively damaged, but no significant damage was reported to the company’s main building about 100 feet away, Gomulka said.

According to its website, Duratech Systems “provides tank lining services to industries where corrosion and abrasion problems exist.” The company serves the chemical, power, steel and waste industries, among others.

Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was at the scene Wednesday and is investigating the incident, a spokesman said.


Tagged categories: Explosions; Health and safety; OSHA; Tanks and vessels

Comment from Mike Gerber, (1/13/2011, 9:42 AM)

I hope there is a follow-up story when the cause is determined. Wonder if atmosphere was tested prior to (and during) entry?

Comment from Car F., (1/13/2011, 10:45 AM)

Very interesting. I wonder if some sort of gas or air-borne fine particles resulting from the actual removal of the lining played any part on the explosion. ... Please follow on this story.

Comment from Edgar Matamoros, (1/13/2011, 11:48 AM)

What an interesting case... I agree with the the previous comments... A followup would be even more interesting!

Comment from Steve Badenhop, (1/13/2011, 10:32 PM)

I especially enjoyed the comment about ventilation precluding such an event...complete fiction. Any time you're working on a tank's floor or columns, you assume there's fuel or gas build-up until you eliminate it. Until then, you stick to cold work only. My guess was that they encountered or caused a puncture in the floor or a column and the whistling they heard was the flame burning up to the hole before it got sucked in and ignited a pocket of fuel...then, boom.

Comment from Akin Ogunmade, (1/16/2011, 3:59 PM)

Good enough as it did not claim the lives of the workers. Let's know the cause so as to learn from it and take necessary precautions.

Comment from jerry baxter, (1/25/2011, 2:17 PM)

Never heard of an incident just like this one. Investigation certainly needed.(?) We in the industry need to know the cause and circumstances around this one. Thanks for letting us know.

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