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CSB says fatal Mississippi fish plant explosion caused by ignition of volatile solution

27 August 2014

An explosion at a fish processing plant on the Mississippi Coast which killed one worker and injured others happened when sparks ignited a volatile mixture in a tank, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said in a news release on August 26. CSB inspectors said that workers were performing hot work at or near the tank that exploded on July 28 at the Omega Protein plant in Moss Point.

Stock image
Stock image

Houston, Texas-based Omega produces fish oils and fish meal for human consumption and use in aquaculture, agriculture and industrial applications. The plant and its adjacent shipyard employ about 300 people.

The tank concerned contained a mixture of water and fish matter known as "stickwater."

"The stickwater inside of the storage tank had been thought to be nonhazardous. No combustible gas testing was done on the contents of the tank before the hot work commenced," the CSB said.

The explosion blew the lid off the 30-foot-high tank, killing a contract worker who was on top of it, the safety board said. A second contract worker on the tank was severely injured.

“This tragedy underscores the extreme importance of careful hot work planning, hazard evaluation and procedures for all storage tanks, whether or not flammable material is expected to be present,” said CSB Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso. “Hot work dangers are not limited to the oil, gas, and chemical sectors where flammability hazards are commonplace.”

Moure-Eraso said the CSB had now examined three serious incidents – all with fatalities – involving hot work on tanks of biological or organic matter. In addition to the Omega event, the others were at Packaging Corporation of America in 2008, where three workers were killed performing hot work above a tank of pulp fibre waste and slurry, and in 2009 at a ConAgra plant in Oregon where a welding contractor was killed repairing a water clarifier tank.



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