CSB Investigating Three Recent Chemical Incidents at Honeywell Baton Rouge Plant

September 29, 2003

(Washington, DC - September 29, 2003) Investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) are now examining three separate incidents that occurred in July and August at the Honeywell Specialty Materials Plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These incidents impacted employees, the neighboring community, and the environment.

A CSB team was first deployed to investigate a chlorine release to the atmosphere that occurred at the facility in the early morning hours of July 20, 2003. The release caused eight employees to require medical attention and forced residents living within a half-mile radius of the plant to shelter-in-place until the leak was secured. Several residents also sought medical evaluation.

In the second incident, on July 29, 2003, an employee was fatally injured by exposure to antimony pentachloride when a compressed gas cylinder he was emptying released most of its contents to the atmosphere. There was no immediate impact to the surrounding community.

The third incident occurred on August 13, 2003, as two Honeywell employees were performing clean-up activities while the facility was shut down due to the two earlier incidents. The two employees were hospitalized for treatment and observation following suspected exposure to anhydrous hydrofluoric acid (HF), a poisonous gas. Both employees were subsequently released.

Due to the hazardous nature of chemicals used at the plant, the Honeywell Baton Rouge facility is covered under both the Environmental Protection Agency's Risk Management Program (RMP) rule and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. CSB investigators are working to determine the root causes of each of the three recent incidents; findings will be discussed at a CSB public meeting at a time and location to be announced.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. CSB investigations look into all aspects of such events, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems. Typically, the investigations involve extensive witness interviews, examination of physical evidence, and chemical and forensic testing. The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA to prevent future accidents. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov.

For additional information contact Daniel Horowitz at (202) 261-7613.


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