Today in Hazmat History – May 3

Hazmat History

By Richard T. Cartwright, PE, CHMM, (IHMM, AHMP and APICS) Fellow

The saying, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” is more than a cliché. It is a reminder that we must constantly be learning from the past. Here’s a look back at major historical events that happened today in the world of hazardous materials.

May 3, 2008

Tropical cyclone struck Burma (now Myanmar) where more than 100,000 people died. In some areas, three out of every four buildings were destroyed. Unfortunately, military backed leaders of Burma refused to allow any foreign aid workers to enter the country to distribute much needed aid.  

May 3, 1980

Thirteen-year-old Cari Lightner died while walking on a quiet road in Fair Oaks, Calif., when a car swerved out of control and hit her. Her tragic death compelled her mother, Candy Lightner, to found Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Note: It’s the hazardous materials dose that makes the poison.

May 3, 1962

Two commuter trains and a freight train collided in Japan; 160 people died. The freight train went through a red signal, causing it to jump track and collide with the commuter train. Survivors scrambled out of disabled train and down a 30-foot embankment adjacent to the rails. Minutes later, a second commuter train on the same line, with nine cars, came down the tracks unaware of the crash ahead. It plowed into the back of the first commuter train. The collision caused the boiler of a steam locomotive on the freight train to explode. To make matters worse, the first commuter train was pushed over and down the embankment right on top of passengers who had escaped from it minutes earlier. The subsequent investigation into the accident resulted in nine of the freight train’s crew members being indicted for criminal negligence.

May 3, 1695

French hydraulic engineer Henri Pitot was born. He invented the Pitot Tube, an instrument to measure flow velocity either in liquids or gasses. With subsequent improvements by Henri Darcy, its modern form is used to determine aircraft airspeed. Pitot investigated flowing water velocity at different depths; he created the Pitot Tube for this purpose. He disproved the prevailing belief that flowing water’s velocity increased with depth.

Historical hazardous materials management events are posted 365 days a year at this LinkedIn discussion group.

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