Federal safety regulators cited two Ohio companies for numerous safety violations after an explosion inside a food additive manufacturing facility left four workers with burns, smoke inhalation, and other injuries.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said the explosion occurred at an Arboris plant in Newark, Ohio, which makes sterols, an organic compound derived from pine trees used in foods such as bread, milk, yogurt, and spreads to lower cholesterol levels.
Two of the injured workers are employees of Arboris, which also has manufacturing facilities in Savannah, Ga., and two were contractors employed by Atlas Industrial Contractors of Columbus, Ohio. Atlas also has other facilities in Ohio, Alabama and Colorado.
OSHA said that an investigation of the accident and the plant where it occurred revealed violations in safety management for procedures involving the proper handling of hazardous materials and emergency shut-downs.
The plant’s failure to properly respond to an emergency caused the explosion, OSHA investigators found, and the lack of emergency preparedness exacerbated the problem. The two Atlas contractors at the site at the time had to scale an eight-foot security fence topped with triple-strand barbed wire to escape the fireball.
The two Arboris workers suffered from first-degree burn injuries and smoke inhalation.
“Four workers were lucky to be able to escape with minor injuries after a fireball engulfed their work area,” said Vanessa Martin, OSHA’s area director in Columbus. “When employers fail to properly document procedures and control highly hazardous chemicals, there is a potential for unintentional releases, which can cause explosions and fires. Companies must carefully monitor their processes to ensure safety in manufacturing facilities.”
On June 17, OSHA hit Arboris with 41 safety violations, including one willful and 35 serious violations and proposed fines of more than $180,000.
The agency cited Atlas for one repeated, one serious, and one other-than-serious violation for its failure to store gas cylinders properly and provide its employees with flame-resistant clothing and other protective gear. Proposed penalties totaled $41,000.