Thursday, December 9, 2010

CG Inspectors Help Bring Waterfront Facility Into Compliance—Part II

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. Click here for Part I.

Part II—The Challenges

To avoid a potentially catastrophic fire, the warehouse had to be completely ridden of rubbish, waste, and hazardous material. The facility also needed to provide adequate fire extinguishing capability, and the structural integrity of the building had to be certified.

This situation was made more complex because the facility had five tenants, each involved in independent, uncoordinated hazardous material handling operations.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better
Tenants were using different sections of the same floor to mix flammables and other materials that were not compatible with each other. Packing and distribution materials were haphazardly stored, creating a fire hazard and blocking egress and response routes.

The operations varied in size and occupancy space, and there was no way to distinguish between operations. Even the tenants were unclear where one leased space ended and the next began.

The tenants were not familiar with federal hazardous materials regulations, and this was their first interaction with the Coast Guard. All of them were very concerned about going out of business. At first, some tenants did not want to comply.

The Work Begins
Because of this initial resistance and since each operation was so different, Coast Guard members and facility representatives met with each tenant individually. Most of these meetings took place in the warehouse, where inspectors could point out and explain the dangers within each tenant’s area. This allowed the tenants to propose solutions that could be evaluated and, in many cases, approved on the spot.

This approach allowed the tenants to see that the Coast Guard was in support of keeping them in operation, and that the incident management team viewed them as part of the solution. Following the one-on-one meetings, the tenants took ownership of the safety requirements and the response picked up momentum.

In part III, we look at the results.

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