AN EXPLOSION at a Dow Chemical plant in Massachusetts, US, has injured five people, four of whom are in a critical condition in hospital with burns and shrapnel wounds, according to reports.
The Boston Herald reports that the blast happened at 15:00 local time on 7 January in a lab at Dow subsidiary Rohm and Haas’ plant in North Andover, which produces electronic materials such as microelectronics and circuit boards. Employees were working with trimethylaluminium, which is highly reactive with water and is used to make LED lights. State fire marshal Stephen Coan told the paper that the chemical is usually stored in glass vials, but somehow came into contact with water, causing a “violent explosion”. North Andover fire chief Andy Melnikas told the Boston Globe that a section of the lab’s wall was blown out.
Coan told the Herald that while the four worst injured victims were able to walk out of the lab alone, their injuries were serious. A fifth worker standing outside the lab also suffered some minor injuries, according to the Globe but was not hospitalised.
“Local emergency officials responded and all personnel were evacuated. Four workers were transported to area hospitals for medical treatment,” said Dow in a statement, adding: “Emergency personnel continue to work at the facility to ensure all safety and regulatory requirements are met. The cause of the incident is not known at this time. An investigation is proceeding with the full cooperation and participation of the company. There is no risk to the community.”
Fire department hazmat crews removed all remaining trimethylaluminium from the lab. It was buried in sand in a truck and removed to “a remote location”, the Globe reports, where it will be rendered safe.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has told The Chemical Engineer that it began an inspection on the day of the accident.
“The inspection will seek to determine whether or not any OSHA safety or health standards were violated in connection with this incident. OSHA’s inspection is open and ongoing. [There is] no estimated completion date at this time. OSHA has up to six months to complete its inspection,” said a spokeswoman.
Coan told the Globe that the US Chemical Safety Board is also considering sending personnel. The injured workers’ families have been notified of the accident.
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