(Washington, DC - Feb. 28, 2003) Investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today completed their first week's work at CTA Acoustics in Corbin, KY, where an explosion last Thursday caused four fatal injuries and left a number of workers with severe burns. The investigative team will return to the Corbin site next week.
Lead investigator Bill Hoyle said: "The CSB team is pursuing several lines of inquiry to help us understand what led to this accident. Our immediate priority is to confirm what fueled the explosion and determine what the ignition source may have been. Over the next several weeks, we will continue to analyze company documents, interview witnesses, and examine equipment. We appreciate the effective cooperation provide by CTA." Hoyle noted that certain areas of the plant - including the roof over the production area where the blast is thought to have originated - remained too dangerous to enter, although investigators will return to the site next week.
Preliminary evidence indicates the explosion occurred about 7:32 a.m. on Thursday, February 20, in the plant's #5 production line, which manufactured fiberglass automotive insulation. Milled fiberglass was treated with a phenolic resin binder, formed into mats, and then baked in a continuous, natural-gas fired oven. The production line had been shut down for about 30 minutes when the blast occurred, although the oven continued operating.
Employees have reported small fires having occurred previously within the oven at the plant. Hoyle said, "We will be studying whether there is any connection between these reported fires and the events of February 20. We are also looking at other potential ignition sources, such as an electric spark or static discharge. We are testing dust samples obtained from the plant to determine if they are potentially explosive, and we will be examining the dust removal system at the plant."
Dr. Gerald Poje, the Board Member who accompanied the team in the field, commented: "I am deeply saddened by the mounting death toll from this explosion and the serious injuries to many workers. We need to determine the causes of this tragedy promptly to help prevent similar events in Corbin and elsewhere. This accident has exacted a heavy human and economic toll in the Corbin community. A thorough, scientific, public investigation of the causes is the best way to ensure future safety. I anticipate the Board will convene this spring in Corbin to provide a formal update on the investigation and to discuss the concerns of the community. In the meantime the team's work will continue."
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. The CSB is non-regulatory and does not issue fines. The Board determines the causes of accidents, reports to the public, and makes safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov.
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