Focus on Safety

31 March 2016

Yesterday I read a disturbing article about an ethylene oxide leakage at a big site. The cause of the leakage last year: human error. It scared me a little bit and it surprised me at the same time, in a negative way.

An ethylene oxide plant Danger sign: ethylene oxide

25 tons of ethylene oxide

About 25 tons of ethylene oxide leaked in about two months after a valve wasn’t closed in the correct way. Luckily for employees and residents in the area the leak itself was the only danger measured on the site and in the surrounding area. Further inspections showed no other irregularities or abnormal emissions.

At Alcatraz, we work together every day to achieve one major goal: on site safety. So news about a human error causing a leakage is like a bad dream to us. But this doesn’t mean we keep our eyes closed from these events. It's a confirmation that what we do is very neccessary in the process industry. 

The key focus area

When working with hazardous substances like ethylene oxide, safety should be one of the key focus areas. Working with safety management tools in a predetermined sequence can help operators and companies to avoid human error and therefore possible dangerous situations. Because human failure can even defeat most advanced electronic safety measures. You have to rule out human errors by not only investing in expensive safety tools and equipment but also the focus on a safe workflow and safety knowledge of your employees. 

In the end, the effect of this dangerous event on the concerned company where the leak was found is an improvement of the process safety program that they already started. This safety program is aiming on three areas: operating in a safe and reliable way, craftsmanship and operational excellence with a strong feeling of ownership. Now that’s the news we like to hear.


I hope this incident is an eye opener for more sites to question and improve their process safety. I know that you have to learn from your mistakes, but these are not the mistakes you want to make yourself. The effects could be devastating.

If you read my blog and like to talk about improving your workflow safety or if you want to receive information about solutions, feel free to contact me. You can also read my other blogs here. 

Bram Loose


Stedenbaan 6
5121 DP Rijen
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 76 514 7172
Fax: +31 76 522 5296

Safety by design