Petrochemical Industry

The European chemicals industry is one of the biggest industrial sectors and an important source of direct and indirect employment in many regions of the European Union, with a workforce of 1.2 million and sales of €537 billion (2007). Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a significant share of the EU chemicals industry: 96% of all chemical companies have fewer than 250 employees and these are responsible for 28% of all sales and 35% of total employment. As producers of specialities, SMEs are often customers of the larger entities in the sector, rather than suppliers.

The chemicals industry produces a wide variety of substances and preparations which are essential for use in a very broad range of applications in virtually all sectors of the economy, including:

  • base chemicals (petrochemicals and derivatives, basic inorganics and polymers) usually produced in large volumes;
  • specialty chemicals (active ingredients and co-formulants for the pharmaceuticals industry and plant protection, auxiliaries for industrial processes, paints & inks, biocides, and dyes and pigments) usually produced in lower volumes; and
  • consumer chemicals (soaps and detergents, perfumes and cosmetics). [1]


The chemical industry is one of the industries with the most stringent safety regulations. Regular revision, servicing and maintenance work is required due to the high stress placed on equipment by exposure to very aggressive substances, high temperatures and pressures. Depending on the size and type of plants and operations concerned, maintenance often involves complete shut-downs, however, specific production area maintenance and servicing operations are more common.

Whereas small-scale production like that of speciality chemicals is often run as a batch operation, large-scale production is mostly run as continuous operation. In both cases there may be various kinds of technical systems like chemical reactors (which often have to withstand high or low temperatures and pressures), separation devices (distillation, filtration, etc.), and fluid systems for liquids and gases (pumps, valves, tanks), etc.
The complex nature of chemical plants increases the risks for maintenance workers. In addition, they may come into close contact with a broad variety of often hazardous chemicals.

Possible Hazards

Noise

Too much noise at work can result in hearing damage and even to permanent noise/hearing impairment. In order to protect employees against this, employers are required to draw up an inventory of locations and activities where this hazard occurs and take action. Obviously the effectiveness of the measures also needs to be verified.

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Exposure to dust

Dust is a collective name for all types of particles that can easily be carried in an air current. Some kinds of dust, such as quartz dust, are harmful to the health if the proper or adequate measures are not taken

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Working with biological agents

Contact with biological agents can lead to illness. The employer must do everything in his power to prevent this.

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Working in confined spaces

In many sectors employees working in confined spaces, such as in waste processing, the (petro) chemical industry, in oil and gas extraction, transport and logistics, construction and maintenance of containers or agriculture. Work is being done amongst others in or on tanks, boilers, distillation columns, silos, shafts and pipelines, mines, pipes, pits and storage areas.

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Working at heights

One of the most occurring causes of an occupational accident is a fall from great height. At a workplace where there is a risk of falling 2,5 metres or more, fall danger most certainly exists. This means a higher risk which could even result in fatalities.

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Working with electricity / ESD

Electricity and ESD are always a potential danger, even without direct contact. A light shock for example could cause a fall due to the startling.

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Working with fire hazard.

A fire can have irreversible consequences for the health and safety of people who work in the building, the local residents and if toxins are released even for the people miles around. Therefore national and municipal governments apply stringent requirements for the design, installation and construction of company premises.

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Collision

A safety helmet protects against injuries to the head that may arise from impact or falling objects.

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Skin damage

Skin damage can be caused by abrasion, pressure, impact and as a result of cuts or contact with irritating substances.

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Working with sharp objects

When working with sharp objects, materials and / or tools it might be necessary to protect hands and sometimes wrists and forearms. Think about working with for instance glass, sharp steel and butcher knives.

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Working with cold

If a workplace is too cold, employees may perform less well and moreover they might get ill. This applies to everyone who works in the outdoors, in unheated warehouses and refrigerators. Employers should take measures to prevent health damage resulting from cold.

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Sliding danger

Slips, trips and falls are the main cause of accidents in all industrial sectors, both in heavy industry as well as in the office.

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Working outdoors

Working outdoors involves three great risk factors: 1) heat 2) cold 3) UV-radiation.

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Faible visibilité

Signal or signalling clothing stands out and makes the wearer more visible in his (work) environment.

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Welding

During welding welding fumes are released. Inhaling these fumes is bad for the health. During electric welding there is a chance of exposure to UV radiation. This can be harmful to eyes and skin.

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Températures élevées

Working at high temperatures or with hot products may lead to reduced performance or damage to health. Possible risks must therefore be mapped.

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