OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard applies to fireworks manufacturing but not to fireworks disposal. Had the standard applied to disposal, a required hazard analysis could have saved five workers who were killed in an explosion.
A U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation says the explosion during fireworks disposal in Hawaii in 2011 resulted from:
- unsafe disposal practices
- insufficient safety requirements for government contractor selection and oversight, and
- an absence of national guidelines, standards and regulations for fireworks disposal.
On April 8, 2011, five employees of Donaldson Enterprises Inc. (DEI) sought shelter from rain inside a storage facility that contained government-confiscated illegally labeled fireworks. DEI had been hired by VSE Corp. which handles storage and disposal for large amounts of government-seized property, including illegal fireworks.
The CSB investigation determined that changes in DEI’s disposal process resulted in large accumulations of explosives just inside the facility, creating the essential elements for a mass explosion.
DEI personnel had no specific expertise in fireworks disposal, and the company’s procedures were extremely unsafe, according to the CSB.
The company was awarded the subcontract from VSE because it was the lowest in cost and the most time-efficient. And as many in safety know: The lowest cost and quickest solution aren’t always the safest.
Although the CSB can’t create regulations, it often recommends them. As a result of this investigation, it recommends OSHA extend its PSM standard to cover fireworks disposal.
Had the PSM standard applied, DEI would have been required to conduct a safety review of the potential hazards involved when it changed its fireworks disposal process.