Pyrotechnics Plant Cited, Fined for July Explosion that Killed an Employee

Oct. 1, 2001
The South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 10 citations and fines of over $45,000 to the Melrose South Pyrotechnics Inc. facility for accident that killed one worker and injured two others.

The South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a report on the July 19 explosion at the Melrose South Pyrotechnics Inc. facility in Landsford, S.C., that killed one worker and injured two others. Eight fire departments responded to the explosion.

According to the report, James Brett Ringer, a seasonal worker at Melrose South Pyrotechnics, was working with Kenny Vinson in a fireworks packing shed around 1:45 p.m. when the blast occurred.

Ringer and Vinson were repacking shells from a canceled July Fourth fireworks show when a "flash" came up out of one of the boxes. Another worker had left the door of a nearby fireworks storage area open. As Ringer and Vinson ran from the building, the flash ignited the fireworks in the storage area, which is known as a magazine.

Ringer was hit and killed by flying debris and metal coming from the storage shed. Vinson and an employee working in an adjacent office building, Heather Arnett, were injured.

The explosion demolished the packing shed, started a number of grass fires and set fire to the roof of the company''s office building.

The company was cited by OSHA for leaving the door to a storage area for Class B explosives open when unattended. The company was also cited for having its fireworks packing shed too close to a storage area. According to OSHA, Class B explosives should be packed and unpacked no closer than 50 feet from a magazine. The shed where Ringer and Vinson were working was about 10 feet from the magazine.

Melrose South Pyrotechnics was cited for failure to train employees on the safe handling of returned fireworks, allowing an improperly licensed driver to transport fireworks, and failing to properly vent fireworks storage areas.

The company was cited for a total of 10 violations of OSHA regulations, nine of them classified as "serious," with proposed fines of over $45,000. Melrose South Pyrotechnics has 20 days to file an appeal with the state OSHA review board.

The Landsford site is a storage operation for commercial-grade fireworks. The company conducts fireworks displays nationwide.

by Sandy Smith

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