Major industrial accidents are, fortunately, rare. However, when an incident does occur the fallout can be enormous.
In 2005, the Buncefield explosion in the UK injured 43 people, registered 2.4 on the Richter scale, and emitted a cloud of soot and other contaminants into the atmosphere, which stretched all the way to France and Spain. The economic impact was estimated to be around £1 billion, comprising compensation for loss, costs to the aviation sector, the emergency response and the costs of the investigations (HSE).
When the worst does happen, it is vital that both staff and emergency responders are fully equipped and trained to deal with the consequences. Here, we explore the role of CBRN simulation training in achieving this outcome.
Training for industrial accidents
There are numerous organisations that offer guidance and training courses to help industrial managers assess and manage risk. The main goal is to establish and document procedures, and then to embed these into working practices, so that unsafe systems and unwanted behaviours are identified and eliminated.
While this approach is essential, it is also important to ensure that staff are trained to deal with an incident if it should occur. They need to possess the relevant skills and knowledge, to understand and handle the outcome from either an accidental or deliberate release of gas, vapour, dust or radioactive material.
Therefore, it is necessary to create training scenarios that replicate these potential real-world situations. Traditionally, this has been achieved using either classroom or field-based simulations. Trainees might locate small quantities of live materials or radiological check sources using conventional detection instruments; or signs and handheld notes might be utilised around the training area or classroom, to show the expected level of contamination readings at different locations.
However, these methods have a number of disadvantages. For example, using real detectors in training scenarios takes equipment out of service and may result in it being damaged. Additionally, the use of live check sources (even on a limited scale) can present considerable risk to trainees. Health and safety regulations must also be adhered to, which can limit the maximum reading that can be presented.
Although the use of printed signs around the training area is inexpensive, in practice it does little to help trainees understand the correct use of detection equipment or the best methods of interpreting readings under different operating conditions.
HazMat simulation training for industrial accidents
An alternative approach is the implementation of HazMat simulation training. This utilises a new generation of intelligent, computer-based simulators, which can be used in a wide range of industrial scenarios, including the release of radiological, chemical and petrochemical gases, vapours or agents.
These devices simulate real-life detection instruments and can be used in almost any designated training location – including those that stretch over many square miles. Instructors can create, run and optimise each training exercise from a central point, with the ability to influence the readings that students should obtain across the training area at different times or phases of each exercise. Additionally, there are no health and safety regulations to comply with.
Simulators may ne a little more expensive to purchase than detectors - however, their lifetime cost is generally lower than that of real detectors. This is because they are easier to repair and the electronics simulation sources cost significantly less than live materials over time.
CBRN simulation training is an excellent complement to existing safety management and training programmes. It provides a new dimension that can play an important role in mitigating risk and, should an incident occur, dealing efficiently with the outcome.
An original version of this post first appeared as an article in CBNW magazine.