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November 20, 2023
OSHA cites Florida, Massachusetts employers following explosions

A pair of employers are facing six-figure Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties following workplace explosions.

Air Liquide Advanced Materials, Inc., of High Springs, Florida, a global manufacturer of industrial gas, faces $201,573 in penalties following a May 2023 explosion that severely injured several employees, OSHA announced November 16. The employer could have prevented the accident by following required operating procedures in the manufacturing process, according to the agency.

After the explosion, OSHA investigators initiated an inspection at the manufacturing site, where diborane—a toxic, colorless, and pyrophoric gas—is produced, distilled, mixed, and transferred. 

Inspectors determined that the explosion occurred as a 25-year-old product technician used a heat gun to transfer gas from an aluminum source cylinder to a steel cylinder. The technician was flown to a trauma center and treated for brain injuries, third-degree burns, and a leg amputation. Four other workers suffered various injuries and were treated at the hospital.

The agency cited Air Liquide Advanced Materials for willfully exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards by requiring them to use equipment intrinsically unsafe in the presence of flammable chemicals and vapors.

OSHA also cited the employer for 12 serious violations for the following failures: 

  • Not containing safe upper and lower limits for temperatures, pressures and flows, and thermal and chemical stability data on the process safety information documents;
  • Failing to conduct a process hazard analysis to adequately address hazards related to impure or contaminated materials produced in mixing and reaction processes; 
  • Not retaining and addressing hazard analysis recommendations promptly and tracking resolutions;
  • Failing to address requirements for the operating limits specified for cylinder temperatures in written operating procedures; 
  • Not removing equipment in hazardous locations with ignitable or combustible properties of specific dust, fibers, gases, or vapors present; and
  • Not properly classifying buildings as process safety management sites and documenting that equipment complied with recognized good engineering practices.

“By putting production ahead of safety, Air Liquide Advanced Materials altered a young worker’s life permanently,” Scott Tisdale OSHA’s Jacksonville, Florida, area office director, said in an agency statement. “Our investigation found the company worked to increase productivity at its High Springs facility but failed to employ safety measures required for the production of a toxic chemical, diborane.”

Drug, chemical maker cited in fatal explosion

PolyCarbon Industries, Inc., a Newburyport, Massachusetts, pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturer, is facing $298,254 in OSHA penalties after a pressure vessel exploded, causing an employee’s fatal injuries, the agency announced November 16.

OSHA inspectors identified several deficiencies in the facility’s process safety management program for highly hazardous chemicals in the production and drying of a chemical product called Dekon 139 and for combustible dust hazards.

The agency found that the employer didn’t:

  • Determine the combustibility hazards of materials used in the Dekon 139 production process, exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards from combustible dust.
  • Include safe upper and lower temperature limits to prevent the decomposition of Dekon 139.
  • Evaluate the consequences of deviation in the Dekon 139 production process.
  • Establish written procedures to maintain the ongoing integrity of process equipment, and provide clear instruction on consequences of deviation from steps in the operating procedures.
  • Update the process safety information to include steps to avoid consequences of deviation in temperature, properties, and hazards of the chemicals used in the process.
  • Update standard operating procedures for producing Dekon 139 and its safety data sheet.
  • Review a November 2022 compliance audit report with all affected personnel whose job tasks are relevant to the report findings.
  • Track contract employees’ injuries and illnesses related to the contractor’s work in the process areas.

“The requirements of OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard are stringent and comprehensive because failure to comply fully can have a severe or catastrophic impact on employees that, in this case, cost a worker their life,” Sarah Carle, OSHA’s Andover, Massachusetts, area office director, said in a statement.

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