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Wacker plant in US fined $3,200 (£2,300) for 2020 explosion that killed one, injured four

04 May 2021

A Wacker Polysilicon plant in Tennessee, US has been cited for a “serious violation” and fined $3,200 (£2,300) in relation to a November 2020 incident which killed one worker and injured four others. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (TOSHA) proposed the fine after its report found improper personal protective equipment (PPE) was used during maintenance activity.

Charleston plant - Image: Wacker
Charleston plant - Image: Wacker

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, TOSHA said that the correct type of PPE was not selected to protect the affected workers from hazards identified during an assessment for a safe-work permit.

The incident on November 13 involved a release of around 15 pounds of hydrochloric acid (HCl). The Wacker facility in Charleston, Tennessee makes polysilicon for use in solar panels.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press was told by a Wacker spokesperson that the company would not be appealing the fine. The spokesperson said that Wacker had cooperated fully with TOSHA and would implement all measures required by the safety agency.

Wacker opened its $2.5 billion Charleston plant in 2016. Since then, the plant has experienced several safety incidents, such as in July 2020 when four workers suffered chemical burns while performing maintenance tasks in a process building.
In 2017, an explosion at the Wacker Polysilicon plant resulted in eight people being treated in local clinics and was the second incident at the plant in eight days. The blast was caused by a mechanical incident that resulted in a hydrogen chemical release, according to Wacker, while the previous incident left five workers with chemical burns. Chemical production was halted for almost eight months as Wacker investigated the incident, hired a third-party investigator, and made safety improvements to the facility.

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