How The ‘World’s Smelliest Substance’ Saves Lives

 In Odorant Spill

Taste is subjective. So is smell. But when the headline in the  January 22, 2013 issue of The Mirror reads:

“The French stench: Gas leak from factory in France causes a stink 200 miles away in UK”

and the subheadline reads:

“The leak released a colourless gas called mercaptan – listed in the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s smelliest substance”

… it’s a pretty good bet that this isn’t going to elicit a huge range of opinions about the scent of “mercaptan” – the odorant that is used to warn people of a gas leak. Almost any adjective conveying vileness will suffice: putrid, fetid, nauseating icky, etc.

The incident in question was a spill at the Lubrizol factory in Rouen, France in 2013. It’s difficult to tell which chemical spilled since “mercaptan” is a class of stinky compounds, not a unique chemical. In reality, it doesn’t much matter which mercaptan was spilled because all low molecular weight mercaptans are evil-smelling and different ones are used to add an odor to different types of natural gas.

Read more about the chemistry of mercaptan, the world’s smelliest substance, on the American Council of Science and Health website.

Do not get caught in a situation where you employees do not know what to do in a leak situation.

Midland Resource Recovery (MRR) offers custom classes that are unique to each client’s needs in most aspects of odorization with the focus being mercaptan spill prevention training.

Emergency Management

As odorization professionals, we stress the importance of emergency management to reduce the vulnerability to odorant spills. With over twenty years in the business, we have seen that most incidents could have been avoided with proper training, equipment installation by a qualified technician, understanding operating procedures and having an emergency response plan in place.

Odorization & Mercaptan Spill Prevention Training Topics

  • Objectives of odorization
  • Chemical and physical properties of odorants
  • Human health effects
  • Environmental effects
  • Overview of odorization systems
  • Odorant transport
  • Odor-free handling of odorant
  • Causes of odorant spills
  • Consequences of odorant spills
  • Spill prevention
  • Emergency spill response plan
  • Case scenarios, odorant spills

Required OSHA Training

CFR 1910.1200(h)(1)

“Employers shall provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment, and whenever a new chemical hazard the employees have not previously been trained about is introduced into their work area. Information and training may be designed to cover categories of hazards (e.g., flammability, carcinogenicity) or specific chemicals. Chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and safety data sheets.”

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