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Spill and First Aid

An electrician was removing an inoperable RTD (resistance temperature detector) from a Thermo-well from an active main Glycol line (12”, 25% solution, -5 C). After visually inspecting the assembly behind the foam insulation, he believed the connection (between thermo-well and pipe) was welded, but it was threaded. As he unscrewed the RTD from the Thermo-well, the Thermo-well came out along with the RTD. This released glycol from a charged line causing it to leak, spray and spill approximately 6,000 - 7,000 gallons. Most of the glycol was recovered from the secondary containment, but approximately 1,800 gallons had to be replaced. The worker tried to put the assembly back into the pipe which did not work and subsequently caused glycol to spray his chest/body/face. The line was under approximately 60 psi of pressure. The worker was decontaminated in the men’s locker room in the next building and then sent to medical for evaluation. The worker was released with no injury and he returned to work the next day. Utilities shutdown the system for a few hours and first responders put the assembly back into the pipe while donning a level A. The system was back-up and running around noon the same day. New glycol had to be purchased and an environmental remediation company responded to remediate the floor, associated components, and some white rock outside the exterior door. An RCA was requested by management to understand what happened and how to improve for the future.

Factors to consider at your site or on your project include, but are not limited to, the following:


1.    Consider potential releases from active lines.

2.    Consider atypical pipe connections prior to disassembly.

3.    Consider having a pipefitter remove pipe assemblies such as RTDs instead of electricians.

4.    Remove all obstructions, such as insulation, to view pipe connections.

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