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National News Release:   USDL: 99-222
Wednesday, Aug. 11, 1999
CONTACT: Bill Wright
PHONE: (202) 693-1999

Chemical explosion near Allentown killed five, injured two


The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a chemical manufacturing company near Allentown, Pa., for safety violations that allegedly led to a catastrophic explosion last February. OSHA proposed penalties of $641,200. The explosion killed five workers, including a father and son, and injured two others.

OSHA cited Concept Sciences, Inc. (CSI), a specialty chemical manufacturer, for 20 alleged violations, including 11 willful violations for failure to protect employees from the explosive potential of hazardous chemicals. The explosion occurred Feb. 19 at CSI's manufacturing facility in Hanover Township, Pa. Four of the workers killed were employed by CSI; one worker from an adjacent business was also killed in the explosion.

"This is precisely why OSHA established standards to prevent catastrophic incidents involving hazardous chemicals," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said. "CSI management was clearly aware of the requirements of those standards, but failed to take adequate safety measures prior to producing a chemical known throughout the industry as potentially explosive."

"What's most troubling," added Charles N. Jeffress, OSHA administrator, "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."

CSI employed 21 workers at two locations in the Allentown area. Employees were involved in the company's first production run of hydroxylamine, a chemical additive used to produce other chemicals for the microprocessor industry. OSHA's inspection revealed that the explosion occurred at a 2,500-gallon fiberglass reinforced charge tank containing approximately 750 pounds of the hazardous chemical. The tank was being used in the distillation process. Pure hydroxylamine has explosive energy roughly equivalent to that of TNT. The building was completely destroyed by the explosion and has since been demolished.

Of the 20 violations cited, 11 were alleged willful violations of OSHA's process safety management (PSM) standard, as well as provisions of the hazard communication standard.

The PSM standard establishes requirements to prevent, or minimize, the potential for fire or explosion caused by dangerous chemicals, while hazard communication addresses the potential hazards of chemicals and establishes procedures to communicate those hazards to employees.

The 11 willful violations, with a total proposed penalty of $616,000, are composed of various groupings of individual requirements of both standards. They include: 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 pre-startup safety review; process equipment deficiencies; and failure to develop mechanical integrity procedures. Provisions of the hazard communication standard cited as alleged willful violations related to deficiencies in both employee training and material safety data sheets.

OSHA also issued nine alleged serious violations to CSI, totaling $25,200, citing the lack of employee participation in a PSM program, failure to adopt safer work practices, no injury and illness logs for contract employees, inadequate mechanical maintenance training, deficiencies in chemical hazard evaluation procedures, and improper labeling of chemical containers.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Concept Sciences, Inc. has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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This news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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