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Investigation update into fatal paint manufacturing explosion released

19 December 2022

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released an update on December 16 into its ongoing investigation of the incident at the Yenkin-Majestic OPC Polymers resin plant in Columbus, Ohio in April 2021. The update provides a detailed incident description, background information on the facility and production as well as a history of the equipment. The large explosion and fire led to one fatality and injured eight additional employees.

Image: CSB
Image: CSB

The update details events on the night of the incident. The CSB determined that during the addition of a solvent to Kettle 3 an agitator (stirring mechanism) had not been running for over an hour. When a worker realised that the agitator had shut down, he turned it on and the product inside the kettle began to quickly vapourise. This increased pressure inside the kettle, which continued to rise until a mixture of resin liquid and flammable solvent vapour released from Kettle 3’s manway into the enclosed room where the kettle was located.

As the pressure in Kettle 3 continued to build, flammable vapour spread throughout different areas of the building, including the furnace room, and ignited. The explosion also ignited flammable material present at the plant which resulted in a large fire. Two employees were rescued from collapsed parts of the plant, one employee was fatally injured, and eight others were transported to area hospitals for injuries.

Moving forward the CSB’s investigation will continue to analyse several key areas, including:

- Equipment design
- Process safety management systems,
- Regulations, industry standards and guidance
- Emergency response to a flammable vapour release

Board Member Sylvia Johnson said:, “Our investigation is still ongoing. Complete findings, analyses and recommendations will be available in the agency’s final report. In the interim, the CSB’s goal is to distribute information on our ongoing work as it becomes available.”

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