Worker dies in Melbourne chemicals plant blast

Article by Adam Duckett

A MAN has died in an explosion at a chemical plant in Melbourne, Australia.

An automatic alarm at the ACB Group factory in Derrimut, West Melbourne, alerted the fire service to the incident yesterday at 9.44am. Fire Rescue Victoria said they discovered a dead worker in the plant – reported to be a 44-year-old man – and say they think the explosion and resulting fire was caused by a chemical reaction.

The state health and safety regulator Worksafe Victoria will now investigate the cause. It has said that the man is thought to have been working with a class 3 dangerous good – the designation for a flammable liquid – when the explosion occurred.

ACB Group describes itself as an end-to-end contract manufacturer that blends, formulates, processes, and packages chemicals.

Fire Rescue Victoria said that 30 appliances, including HAZMAT and around 80 firefighters with breathing apparatus responded to the fire, which was contained by the sprinkler system. It said the fire was under control by midday.

ABC News reports that paramedics monitored 28 workers from the plant and surrounding factories for signs of chemical exposure.

Dominic Scarfe, the Fire Rescue Victoria assistant chief fire officer, said: “Our challenge now is we've managed to contain all the water that was used to extinguish the fire on site, and we've got contractors coming in to remove that. We don't want that water getting into the stormwater and local creeks.”

Fatal chemical truck crash

The incident follows a fatal crash earlier this week in Pilbara, Western Australia, involving a truck transporting 25 t of ammonium nitrate. Three people died when the truck collided with a car. Efforts to put the resulting fire out were hampered by fears that the radiant heat could cause the ammonium nitrate – a white crystalline solid used in mine blasting – to explode. The crash happened on Tuesday and firefighters were forced to retreat 2 km for fear of being caught up in a massive explosion. They extinguished the fire on Thursday once the temperature had cooled, ABC News reports.

Ammonium nitrate is the same chemical involved in the huge blast in the port of Beirut in 2020 which caused the death of more than 200 people.

On 30 September, a tanker transporting anhydrous ammonia, used in the manufacture of fertiliser, crashed and escaped leading to the deaths of five people in the US.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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