An explosion at a Dow Chemical Co. (IW500/20) plant in North Andover, Mass., has triggered a call from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) for “a complete review of how chemicals are handled at the plant.” The review “needs to occur immediately,” according to MassCOSH.

Five workers were injured – four seriously – in a Jan. 7 explosion at a lab at the facility. According to reports, trimethylaluminum, a chemical that is used to make LED lights and electronics and is reactive with air and water, mixed with water and created a powerful reaction. This is the second explosion at the facility, where a worked died in October 2013.

North Andover Fire Lieutenant Robert Bonenfant called the two incidents “very different” and it is not thought that they had similar risk factors or triggers. The company is working closely with investigators to determine the cause of the blast.

Regardless of cause, “Two explosions, one of which resulted in the loss of life, in just over two years is simply unacceptable,” said Jeff Newton, membership and communications coordinator for MassCOSH. “Few laboratory chemicals are without hazards and MassCOSH is demanding further precautions for handling all laboratory chemicals at DOW be adopted.”

The New England Consortium (TNEC) a worker health and safety training organization based at University of Massachusetts Lowell, of which MassCOSH is a training partner, works with industries throughout New England that handle hazardous chemicals to train workers on chemical safety, including rapid response for workers who first enter situations like that which occurred at DOW.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is currently collecting information about this incident.

 

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