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US paint manufacturer faces $709,000 fine after April 2021 explosion killed one, injured eight

12 October 2021

A US-based paint manufacturer is facing fines of up to $709,000 for safety violations following an explosion at a factory in Columbus, Ohio in April 2021. The incident, which the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said could have been prevented, killed a press operator and hospitalised eight other employees of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation.

Image: Columbus Division of Fire
Image: Columbus Division of Fire

Following a workplace safety investigation, OSHA said the incident could have been prevented had the employer not altered a kettle reactor vessel improperly and then returned the vessel to service after it failed following the alterations.

The investigation of the 8 April 2021 explosion determined the same kettle reactor vessel released a flammable vapour cloud when its manway cover and gasket failed. The vapour flowed throughout the plant, ignited and caused the initial explosion.

The Columbus Division of Fire was called to the scene at 12:05 local time where they were met by employees exiting the building. Five of the employees were injured and transported to hospital. Two other employees were trapped inside the building and had to be extricated. Both were taken to hospital in critical conditions. One employee remained unaccounted for as firefighters continued to battle the blaze. The employee was later found deceased at around 09:00 local time. In total, around 100 firefighters were called to the scene to assist in fighting the fire.

OSHA cited Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation for two wilful and 33 serious safety violations of the agency’s process safety management and hazardous waste operations and emergency response procedures. OSHA also noted violations involving lack of personal protective equipment and employee training. The agency proposed $709,960 in penalties and placed Yenkin-Majestic in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp. could have prevented this terrible tragedy if they had followed industry standards and removed a compromised kettle from service,” said Acting OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Knowing that this company altered equipment, failed to use a qualified fabricator and returned equipment to service aware that it did not meet safety standards is unacceptable.”

OSHA’s investigation determined that in December 2020, Yenkin-Majestic Paint altered the kettle reactor vessel and the manway opening but did not ensure the vessel maintained its pressure-containing ability. On 3 January 2021, following the alteration, the newly installed manway failed. The company made additional alterations to the vessel when installing a new gasket and again failed to adhere to OSHA’s PSM, pressure vessel inspection procedures and the American Petroleum Institute’s pressure vessel inspection code.

“Company leadership failed to follow their own internal audit procedures that were put in place to ensure the equipment’s integrity and that of the repair process,” said OSHA’s Area Director Larry Johnson in Columbus, Ohio.  

Founded in Columbus in 1920, the Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp. is a manufacturer of paint resins and coatings.

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