Failure to Safely Handle Volatile Chemical Resulted in Workplace Explosion

July 3, 2003
U.S. Chemical & Plastics Inc., doing business as Catalyst Systems in Gnadenhutten, Ohio, is facing $105,500 in fines from OSHA following a January 2003 explosion at the plant.

An OSHA investigation into the plant explosion and structural fire found the company violated a variety of workplace safety and health regulations, principally that Catalyst Systems had not implemented effective controls for the drying, handling and packaging of benzoyl peroxide. The uncontrolled explosion occurred shortly before noon in a paste room where benzoyl peroxide was processed. The chemical is used in the automotive aftermarket, reinforced plastics, cultured marble, cosmetics and bleaching, and is the chief product manufactured at the plant.

"It was fortunate that this explosion occurred during the lunch hour, or workers very well may have lost their lives," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "OSHA's first commitment is to protect workers from disasters such as this. We stand ready to assist employers of all sizes to make their workplace safe, but we will fully enforce standards when we must."

Catalyst Systems employs approximately 25 workers at the Gnadenhutten site, and was inspected by OSHA in 1989 and 1990. Those inspections resulted in the issuance of 24 citations, including citations for failure to label containers of hazardous chemicals. OSHA found the same violation in this most recent inspection.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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