Shortly before Christmas, there was a massive fire and explosion at a fireworks market on the northern outskirts of Mexico City with a death toll of at least 32 people. This is Mexico and the pyrotechnics industry, both of which are not regulated by OSHA’s PSM standard.

The investigation so far has shown that it was due to customers wanting to test fireworks at the stalls. What comes to mind from this incident is the spacing between the stalls. Were the stalls too close to provide the customers a full experience, or were safety processes not followed?

From this incident, the issue of spacing can be applied in your own site. Even with the understanding that many legacy sites were built years before these safety requirements were put in place, consideration needs to be made regarding what processes are able to impact other units. The analysis should be to look at what your critical processes are and how they can be impacted by nearby units.

I had a situation in a plant where two tanks were within seven feet of each other. One tank was an inlet tank to the site and loss of it would have caused some upset problems but not stopped the operation. The loss of the other tank would shut down the site as it was necessary for consistent feed to the process. So we analyzed the system to determine that we needed to protect the tanks from each other even though the tanks were built 30 years ago.

How has spacing played into your design?