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Sodium Hydroxide Emergency Management 

Aluminium Manufacturing Plant Abu Dhabi

The 625 were contacted to develop and deliver a range of emergency management programs to suit the needs of workers, fire and rescue personnel, safety staff and medical staff who work in an in environment in which the risk of sodium hydroxide is high. In addition to the standard risks posed by the substance, the manufacturing process of aluminium requires that the  caustic substance is subjected to intense heat (circa 280 degrees) and is manipulated at extremes of pressure. These practices combine to produce a hazardous substance of epic proportions. In addition, sodium hydroxide when mixed with water causes an exothermic reaction (heat generation) and when mixed with acid can cause an expansive, near explosive reaction. A number of significant emergencies have across the globe involving sodium hydroxide including the Kraft food factory emergency which resulted in some 1,400 people being evacuated evacuated.

Sodium hydroxide is a manufactured inorganic strong base (alkali) used extensively  in manufacturing. It is highly caustic and decomposes proteins at ordinary ambient temperatures and can cause severe chemical burns.

  1. Toxic by all routes of exposure
  2. Chemical classification: corrosive
  3. Inhalation causes irritation to the eyes and nose, sore throat, cough, chest tightness,
  4. headache and confusion.
  5. Ingestion will burn the mouth, throat and stomach
  6. Skin contact can result in severe burns
  7. Eye contact causes pain, inflammation and severe burns.

Part A of the program was delivered for non-clinical emergency response staff who would be responsible for undertaking fire fighting, search and rescue and spillage clean up.

Part B of the program concentrated on the doctors, nurses and paramedics employed at the EGA plant in Abu Dhabi. Key to the education process was standardisation of the initial response, assessment and treatment and referral pathways for affected patients.The clinical staff are required to manage both acute and chronic exposures of NaOH, routes of exposure include:

  1. Inhalation
  2. Ingestion
  3. Injection
  4. Dermal absorption
  5. Occular contact

EGA are fully supported by RPM for the provision of clinical facilities and medical staff including doctors, nurses, radiographers, laboratory technicians and a range of other specialisms. The clinical capability is impressive. During the courses it was notable that thee is a genuine multi-disciplinary approach to care; the rigid hierarchical structures so often seen in hospital and clinic facilities simply did not exist. It was an absolute pleasure to see all members of the teams pulling together to share knowledge and information related to emergency response and in particular, chemical emergency response.

By the end of the programs of study The 625 team walked away with genuine confidence that the EGA medical, fire and rescue teams had developed a strong capability to undertake incident management, evacuation, firefighting, chemical clean up and emergency care beyond that of many institutions that we have visited before.

We are looking forwards to working with EGA and RPM again to further develop the emergency response capability and capacity at the EGA site.