Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Combustible Dust Probable Cause of Corbin KY Blast

Like the January explosion at West Pharmaceutical that claimed the lives of six workers, the February 20 explosion at CTA Acoustics in Corbin, KY that killed seven was also caused by combustible dust, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
Bill Hoyle, who led the investigation of the CTA Acoustics plant explosion for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, told the audience of plant employees and families of burn victims that maintenance had been scheduled for the production line but that the repairs had been delayed in the days before the blast.

The explosion at the plant, which manufactures thermal and acoustic insulation used in automobiles, ranks as the most deadly industrial-chemical accident since the board began investigating such cases in 1998. In all, 44 people were hurt or killed, and three workers continue to struggle with severe burns.
According to the report, dust that had been stirred up by routine cleaning was ignited by an oven that was left open to cool because the controls were malfunctioning.

Over 200 people -- many CTA workers and family members of those injured and killed -- attended the meeting sponsored by the CSB in Corbin.

According to Hoyle,
It is likely flames escaped from the open door and ignited dust from the resin, the safety board said in a news release.

The thunderous explosion stirred up dust that had settled elsewhere in the plant, touching off secondary explosions and fueling the fire, Hoyle said.
Those who died were Clarence Davis Jr., 35; Michael Anthony Reeves, 41; David Messer, 43; Joe Hamilton, 37; Arnold Peters, 57; Jimmy Lemmings, 42; and Paul Newman, 50.

Many of those attending were upset by the report.
Annette Daniels, whose husband, Billy Daniels, spent three months in a burn unit recuperating from his injuries in the explosion, said the production line should have been shut down because of the malfunctioning oven.

"That should be standard procedure," she said. "They didn't follow standard procedure."

Doug Cupp of Manchester, who also was burned in the blast, said: "No one expected a fire like that. I'm angry. I'm hurt. Everybody has different emotions."
According to CSB Board Member Gerald Poje,
"Preventing industrial dust explosions is probably our biggest priority right now, beyond finding out exactly what happened in Corbin and in Kinston," he said.

Poje said there is growing concern among workplace-safety experts that flammable dust in factories represents the same kind of danger that was identified two decades ago in grain elevators. Stringent safety standards were adopted in the wake of deadly explosions linked to combustible dust in the silos.

Poje said the board's work isn't complete. Investigators will continue to study the accident, and then the board will begin looking into possible ways to help strengthen federal standards for handling industrial dust.