Explosion at Illinois silicones plant

Article by Amanda Doyle

AN explosion and fire at a US silicones manufacturing plant has killed three people with one other still missing.

The explosion occurred at around 21:30 local time on 3 May at the AB Speciality Silicones plant in Waukegan, Illinois. Of the nine people at the plant at the time of the explosion, two didn’t require treatment, and four were taken to hospital with moderate to serious injuries, where one later died. Two bodies have been recovered from the rubble, and one person is still missing. The search is currently ongoing but the remains of the building is not structurally sound, making search and recovery difficult.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown, and is being investigated by the state fire marshal, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

"Most of the processes that they do are very non-hazardous,” said Waukegan Fire Marshal Steven Lenzi at a news conference. “Silicone itself is not a hazardous substance. Something this weekend went horrifically wrong." He also said that the they have a good idea of where exactly the incident occurred in the building but couldn’t release the information as it is part of an ongoing investigation.

According to Lenzi, some of the plant workers alerted the others that something was wrong shortly before the incident and helped others get out of the building.

Mac Penman, AB Speciality Silicones’ General Manager, said: “We are shocked and heartbroken by the tragedy that occurred in our plant on May 3rd. We are trying our best to support all of the members of our AB family as we attempt to process this terrible loss together. We want to express our extreme gratitude to all of the first responders who arrived at the scene. We continue to work closely with the Waukegan Fire Department and the Illinois Fire Marshal as they secure the scene and complete their investigation.”

AB manufactures a variety of vinyl, hydride, phenyl, and fluro-functional silicones which are used for a range of applications from personal care to electronic products.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.