Two workers were injured and a New Jersey building was badly damaged when a vat containing eggnog flavoring exploded, said ABC News (8.3.14). The apparent cause of the accident at Pharmachem Laboratories in Totowa was a mechanical failure.
ABC News reported that there were two explosions at the food laboratory in northern New Jersey. The first blast apparently came from a furnace-like device that was heating a vat containing eggnog flavoring ingredients. The second explosion apparently involved a pocket of hot air or gas that had built up inside the vat. The two explosions blew out the “entire rear of the building.”
Both workers suffered cuts and bruises. According to ABC News, the laboratory was extremely lucky that the explosion occurred on a weekend when “only a skeleton crew was present.” Five to ten people typically worked in the area of the explosion on a normal operation day.
Pharmachem produces ingredients that flavor foods, beverages and other products. Workers had just started on a new recipe for eggnog when the explosion happened, said ABC News. Investigators were questioning whether the eggnog flavor ingredients caused the explosion. The ingredients were not reported.
Workplace fires and explosions can result in catastrophic consequences, causing serious injuries to workers or even death, as well as significant damage to property. Key control measures for managing the risks of fires and explosions include: the identification and management of hazardous areas; the use of ventilation systems to control vapors, even in the event of a leak or spill; and using safe or flameproof equipment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012, fires and explosions accounted for 3% of workplace fatalities in 2012. In this year, approximately 139 workers died as a result of workplace fires and explosions. The total number of workers killed was a decrease of 22 percent from 2011.
The severity of injuries following an explosion depends on the material involved in the blast, the person’s proximity to the explosion, the physical barriers present, and the environmental hazards at the site. Employers and employees must understand the causes of workplace explosions and work together to create a safe workplace.
The ABC News story cited is “ Official: Mechanical Failure Caused Food Lab Blast.”