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2008 — Health and Safety
Phasing out pressurized containers
Molten metal and pressurized containers (tanks, cans and others) are just not a good mix. Any pressurized container submerged into an environment as hot as molten metal would become a bomb. However, since a number of products essential to our operations are found in this form, eliminating pressurized containers is easier said than done.
That is why, pursuant to recommendations made following an Alcoa corporate audit, a systematic process was launched in 2006 to do just that at the Bécancour Rod Plant. “To properly structure the initiative, it was integrated into the management protocols of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and Alcoa’s protocols for hazardous materials, which are even more rigorous,” explained France Fiset, Industrial Hygienist. “First, we completed an inventory to identify the various pressurized containers used at the plant as well as their purpose.”
The next step was to reduce inventory by eliminating the products that were no longer being used, and by grouping various products that served a common purpose so we could chose a single one. In actuality, it is easier and more economical to replenish a single product than several that serve more or less the same function. Since many had their own preference, there were some negotiations involved!
Once the list of remaining products was final, we had to identify a non-aerosol substitute and submit this substitute to an approval process ensure it met Alcoa’s environmental and health and safety requirements.
The size of the containers was also a consideration. Some liquid products are only available in 20 litre containers so we had to purchase a supply of spray bottles. Of course, we also had to carefully label every product!
You would think the process was complete at this point. But the operators still had to test the products to ensure that the substitutes met their needs and did not result in any operational problems.
Once the approvals and test results were received, the new products and the name of its supplier had to be registered in the procurement database. It was important not to forget to delete the old products and their suppliers to avoid an automatic renewal of the inventory and reception of a new supply of pressurized containers… “And, you know what? Some essential products are only available in pressurized form,” added France.
In these cases, the Rod Plant used the management approach adopted by their colleagues in the Alcoa smelters. This involves storing all pressurized containers in locked cabinets, where the name of the user is noted every time it is borrowed so that the product can be more easily located if it is ever left somewhere by mistake.
“This is what we achieved at the Bécancour Rod Plant. You can do the same at the grocery store, simply be choosing a product in a spray bottle rather than an aerosol… Obviously, it was a more involved process for us, but the issues are fundamentally the same!” concluded France.