From a Reuters story:
A worker accidentally tripping a shut-off switch at a major Ontario plastics plant will cost Nova Chemicals Corp. $11 million in lost profit, the company said on Wednesday, because it won’t be able to fulfill some contracts because of the blunder.
A contractor’s employee installing a structural steel platform at an ethylene plant in Corunna, Ontario, mistakenly activated a process shutdown switch on Monday afternoon, halting production and forcing two weeks of repairs at the facility.
“The switch is a safety thing so if anyone sees something going wrong they have the opportunity to shut down the plant,” said Nova spokesman Greg Wilkinson. “But that’s not what happened here. It was not a safety issue. It was simply inadvertent.”
Because of the unexpected shutdown, Nova declared force majeure on shipments of propylene and some other products. Force majeure is a legal term that means a company can’t fulfill contracts because of circumstances beyond its control. It will be lifted when the plant returns to normal operating rates and inventory levels.
The company said the outage and lost sales will shave profits by about $8 million in the second quarter and $3 million in the third. According to Reuters Knowledge, analysts, on average, had expected the company to earn $68.2 million in the second quarter.
Nova has launched an investigation into just how the worker hit the button, but the company said its priority is repairing the facility.
Nova’s spokesman said later on Wednesday that the company has decided to await the results of its inquiry before making any decision on potential penalties. However Wilkinson said he has some sympathy for the worker.
“I can’t imagine how that feels, but it has got to be very distressing,” he said.
Force majeure??? For a construction accident? That’s got to be a first in my experience. Where were the plant operators when this worker hit the shut down switch? I can’t say I like the argument that operator error is “beyond the control” of the plant management. That’s like saying they don’t know how to provide adequate training, and it is okay because it is out if their control.
Help me, I don’t think I like what I am seeing here.