Pressure to resume production was a key factor in an explosion at the Bayer CropScience pesticide manufacturing plant that killed two workers, according to a government report.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released its final report on the Aug. 28, 2008 explosion in Institute, WV.
The CSB found multiple deficiencies during a lengthy startup process that resulted in a runaway chemical reaction inside a residue treater pressure vessel.
The report says the startup was premature, a result of pressures to resume production at the facility after a lengthy maintenance period.
CSB investigators found startup took place before equipment checks, a pre-startup safety review and computer calibration were complete.
A principle cause of the explosion was the intentional overriding of a safety interlock system.
CSB Chairperson Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso said the explosion “could have been prevented had Bayer CropScience provided adequate training and required a comprehensive pre-startup equipment checkout and strict conformance with appropriate startup procedures.”
The report also finds deficiencies with Bayer’s response after the explosion.
One CSB board member noted that Bayer management withheld information from county emergency response agencies.
The incident commander at the plant recommended residents nearby shelter in place. However, that information didn’t get to 911 operators. After an hour, local authorities ordered a shelter in place as a precaution.
A measure signed into law last year prohibits chemical companies from classifying safety information as sensitive in an effort to keep it from becoming public. The law was in response to the Bayer explosion.
Members of Congress accused Bayer of withholding critical information from emergency responders and CSB investigators.
The law makes it clear that the Sensitive Security Information designation created under homeland security laws can’t be used to withhold information that the government should share with the public.