January 10, 2019 | Ken Reed

Chemical Plant Explosion in China Kills 22 – Maintenance Failure

Chemical Explosion, TapRooT

In November of last year, a truck hauling chemicals exploded outside a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou, China.  22 people were killed.

The cause of the explosion was initially blamed on a truck outside the facility.  Later, it was discovered that a storage tank inside the chemical plant containing vinyl chloride gas was leaking, triggering the explosion.

As in almost every accident, there were multiple casual factors, but the one that caught my attention in this article was the problem with periodic maintenance on the storage tanks.  In this case, inspections and maintenance had been overdue:

  • Inspections at 1-2 year periodicity were not performed for almost 6 years.
  • Periodic maintenance / repairs, scheduled for every 5 years, had not been completed since 2012.

It is sometimes difficult to justify periodic maintenance costs.  they don’t directly contribute to the bottom line, and when nothing bad happens, it doesn’t rise to our attention.  However, the cost of NOT performing required preventive maintenance can quickly becomes painfully obvious.

Chemical Explosion, taproot


Don’t let preventive maintenance be considered a burden at your company.  Make sure everyone understands that the consequences of a good maintenance program may not be directly observable, but the consequences of a poor program are readily apparent.



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