Fatal Explosion Results in $641,200 Fine

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a specialty chemical manufacturer for safety violations that allegedly led to a blast so powerful that it killed or injured all of the six workers at the company?s plant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Concept Sciences Inc. (CSI), a specialty chemical manufacturer near Allentown, Pa., for safety violations that allegedly led to a blast so powerful that it killed or injured all of the six workers at the companys plant.

The Feb. 19, 1999, explosion, which destroyed the facility, also tore through the wall of an adjacent business, killing an additional worker who was struck by a falling "I" beam.

The proposed penalties total $641,200 for 20 alleged violations, including 11 willful violations of OSHAs process safety management and hazard communication standards. The 11 are composed of various groupings of individual requirements of both standards, including:

  • Failure to compile process safety information
  • Inadequate process hazard analysis and operating procedures
  • Failure to train employees on operating procedures and the physical hazards of chemicals
  • Lack of a prestartup safety review
  • Process equipment deficiencies
  • Failure to develop mechanical integrity procedures
  • Deficiencies in employee training and material safety data sheets.

"Whats most troubling," OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress said, "is that CSI management did not provide pertinent information to their employees on the hazards involved in the production process or the explosive nature of the chemical."

A CSI spokesperson said the company "emphatically denies that it has ever intentionally taken any action that was a known violation with plain indifference to the law." CSI also stated it believes it had adequate safety systems and training programs in place.

Hydroxylamine is a highly explosive chemical additive used to produce other chemicals for the microprocessor industry. CSI is the only U.S. producer of the additive and had just begun to manufacture it at a new facility when the fatal blast occurred, according to George Tomchick, area director for the OSHA Allentown office.

"As far as we know, they are not continuing to produce it," Tomchick said.

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