Houston,TX- A massive explosion rocked a northwest Houston neighborhood Friday morning, breaking windows, collapsing ceilings and even knocking houses off their foundations up to two miles away, resulting in two fatalities.
Houston fire officials say the chemical involved in the explosion was propylene.
As a hazardous chemical, propylene is covered by a number of federal environmental and worker safety regulations.
Companies have to file those inventories with the state, its local emergency planning committee and the local fire department.
On its 2015 inventory, Watson Grinding and Manufacturing did not include propylene. It only listed liquefied oxygen.
If a company releases propylene into the air, it is required to report that release in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. Most releases of propylene occur at larger chemical companies. Propylene is used in plastic manufacturing to make polyproplyene which is used in countless household products. It’s also used as a fuel in large and small facilities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers propylene a hazardous material. There’s a number of worker safety rules that apply to the storage and handling of propylene and other liquefied petroleum gases that are similar to it.
The OSHA regulations related to propylene all likely applied to Watson Grinding and Manufacturing. The company was fined in 2013 for failing to properly control hazardous energy. Propylene would likely be covered by those rules.
According to the company’s website, Watson Grinding and Manufacturing provides machining, grinding, lapping & thermal spray coatings to customers. It claims to specialize in the turning and milling of exotic alloys, hard metals and large parts.
“The quality of our in-house manufacturing processes is assured by our ISO 9001:2008 certification, team of QA/QC certified professionals and our fully equipped in-house Metallurgical Laboratory,” the website states.
At 9:30 am, Houston Fire Department says HazMat crews have secured the 2,000 gallon tank of propylene gas that was leaking at the blast site. There is still reportedly a small fire burning.
According to a news released dated November, 2015, the company is located in more than 84,000 square feet of facilities, and employs more than 125 people.
Chambersburg, PA – OSHA is conducting an investigation at Letterkenny Army Depot following a chemical explosion which sparked a fire that killed two employees.
Eric Byers (age 29) of Huntingdon County (PA) and Richard Barnes (age 60) of Greencastle (PA) died from their injuries, two other workers were treated at a nearby hospital and released for smoke inhalation.
The explosion and fire at Letterkenny Army Depot occurred on July 19, 2018 and were caused by an accident with a chemical in the paint shop of Building 350. According to the Depot Commander, the chemical in question was being used in normal processes. Officials have declined to specify which chemical sparked the fatal explosion and fire.
Building 350 is used for maintenance and upgrades on military vehicles. The building was not damaged in the explosion or fire.
The Depot Commander reports that corrective action has been taken, including additional training and signs, with further steps planned to minimize the risks associated with chemical use.
As part of the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Air Defense and Tactical Missile Systems, Letterkenny Army Depot facilities conduct maintenance, modification, and storage. It is the largest employer in Franklin County, PA.
Promontory, UT – A propellant explosion trapped an Autoliv North America worker inside a burning building. He was rescued, but died of his injuries.
64-year-old Ronald Larson was trapped in a fire that consumed the mixing portion of Autoliv North America’s Promontory (UT) facility. He died at the hospital following an explosion in a laboratory where he was making propellants for air bag inflators earlier this week.
OSHA is leading the investigation into the industrial accident that cost 64-year-old Ronald Larson his life. The immediate cause of the explosion has yet to be fully been determined.
According to local media, Larson “was trapped inside and on site personnel were making efforts to try and extricate him from [Autoliv’s mixing] building.” The employee was successfully extricated from the building and taken to a local hospital with severe burns. Unfortunately, Larson had stopped breathing upon arrival at the hospital. Lifesaving efforts were in progress, but he was pronounced deceased a short time afterward.
Larson is reported to have been alone in the mixing portion of the building at the time of the explosion and subsequent fire. Two other workers were injured in the fire and in trying to rescue their co-worker. Their injuries are not life-threatening.
Autoliv is based in Sweden and has several facilities in Utah under the Autoliv North America brand. They are the world’s largest automotive safety supplier.
This Autoliv North America location in Promontory was the site of two previous industrial explosions and fires. In 2015 an explosion injured an employee there, and in 2013 a flash fire burned a worker’s arms and face. These prior incident will factor into OSHA’s investigation of the company’s safety practices and could lead to steeper fines if lapses in environmental health and safety are found to have been willful.
South Sioux City, IA – Electrical, mechanical, and chemical hazards were among the violations found at the Big Ox renewable energy plant following a six month OSHA investigation. The six serious violations issued there represent over $50,000 in fines.
Gas exposure first brought this facility to OSHA’s attention after a contractor working at the facility was hospitalized due to hydrogen sulfide exposure. Just two months later, a maintenance worker was treated and released in another incident of hydrogen sulfide exposure. Earlier this year, another two workers were suffered chemical exposure, and one was hospitalized for chemical burns.
Hazardous energy violations were also found at Big Ox Energy while OSHA conducted it’s investigation of the chemical exposure incidents.
OSHA reports show a failure to develop and implement energy control and lockout-tagout procedures for each piece of equipment, including Big Ox’s gas energy mixing system, centrifuge, raw-feed and digester pumps. According to OSHA, employees were exposed to electrical hazards, flowing wastewater, and chemical and mechanical hazards while performing equipment maintenance. Additional citations were issued for failing to ensure each authorized employee affixed his or her own lock or tag to certain devices prior to working on the equipment.
Confined space concerns were also cited. OSHA found a failure to retain confined space entry permits.
Additionally, Big Ox was cited for failure to ensure employees had eye and face protection to keep them safe from hazards like pressurized liquid wastewater. At the end of 2016, a Big Ox Energy employee wearing only safety glasses suffered lacerations, cheek and eye socket fractures, and chipped teeth after being struck by pressurized wastewater and a hose nozzle.
Newark, NJ – In an August inspection, OSHA claims to have found 17 serious safety and health violations at Elan Chemical Company Inc. Citations, including for failures in written procedures, have been issued and the proposed penalties total $72,100.
Elan Chemical manufactures flavor and fragrance products. Alleged violations at their Doremus Avenue facility in Newark, NJ included deficiencies in equipment process safety information, process hazard analysis, and written operating procedures, as well as other safety and testing issues.
A statement from OSHA reads as follows: “The violations identified in this inspection create a hazardous environment for the plant’s workers…This facility uses more than 10,000 pounds of ethyl chloride, a highly flammable liquefied gas. The company’s failure to comply with OSHA’s process safety management standard could result in a chemical release, as well as a serious fire or explosion.”