Two months after an explosion occurred in West, Texas at a fertilizer plant, another accident investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is underway after an explosion in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. On Friday, June 14 2013, an explosion occurred at the CF Industries chemical plant killing one person and injuring seven. The company manufactures nitrogen and is the leading supplier of nitrogen in the world. A news release distributed by the company reported the explosion occurred in an area that was closed for maintenance. Allegedly, workers pumped too much nitrogen in a vessel causing an immediate nitrogen hazard, and it to ruptured. Coincidentally, a petrochemical plant exploded in Geismar, Louisiana on June 13th, a day before the CF Industries incident. The Geismar explosion killed two people and injured 73.
In 2000, OSHA fined CF Industries after an explosion occurred in the ammonia section of the plant killing three workers and injuring eight. Nitrogen hazards are among the most common chemical hazards and the least inspected. Records indicate the Geismar plant had not been inspected in nearly twenty tears. OSHA came under scrutiny after the West, Texas explosion because the plant had not been inspected since 1985 for nitrogen hazard situation or any other safety protocols. OSHA is currently conducting an investigation at the CF Industries plant in an effort to uncover the root cause of the explosion. Additionally, CF Industries has hired a third party company to help determine the cause of the incident. According to news reports, Louisiana has experienced at least two other explosions in chemical facilities in the last two years.
Site managers should incorporate explosion safety tips in their workplace safety plan, and complete an 8-hour annual hazwoper refresher course. Safety precautions should be addressed before an emergency occurs. Workers should consider the following basic safety tips regarding explosions.
- After an explosion occurs, everyone should move to a safe area.
- Follow your fire safety plan especially information related to exiting the building.
- As you exit the building, use a cloth to breathe, if possible (preferably a wet cloth).
- First aid kits should be placed in various places around your work space for quick and easy access. Inform all workers about the location of the kits.