This Safety Nugget was taken from the July 2002 Safety Beacon, published by Center for Chemical Process Safety, or CCPS: http://www.tulane.edu/~bmitche/aiche/psb0802.pdf
A pump seal on the FRI experimental unit recently failed during operations. It can be considered a near miss because there was no substantial loss of hydrocarbons from the unit, but it could result in a loss of containment.
Pump seals and the material of construction are designed specifically for each application. Design of pump seals at the FRI experimental unit are a challenge due to the broad range of operating conditions required for experimental work.
Fortunately, the leak in the pump seal was identified early, during a routine walk through, by observation of increased level in the seal pot. Operational changes and awareness came from the investigation following the incident. If the pump were to continue operation there was a potential for severe damage to the pump and loss of containment of hydrocarbons in the process area.
Any incident that could lead to loss of containment should be treated seriously. Loss of containment is a core focus of Process Safety Management that could lead to fire, chemical exposure or environmental contamination.