Washington, DC, August 11, 2005 - A three-person team from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is deploying to Baton Rouge to examine this morning's chlorine release at the Honeywell International plant. The incident occurred approximately 24 hours following a news conference in Baton Rouge at which CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt and Lead Investigator Lisa Long presented the final CSB Investigation Report on three Honeywell toxic chemical releases - one involving chlorine - that occurred over a four-week period in the summer of 2003.
According to media reports, eleven plant workers underwent decontamination from exposure to chlorine, which can be fatal when inhaled, and two workers were hospitalized. In addition to Investigator Long, the team includes incident investigators Allen Smith and Katherine Leskin.
Chairman Merritt said, "It is ironic that this incident would happen shortly after we returned to Washington from Baton Rouge, where our report on previous incidents was issued to the company and the public. We understand the company says that safety systems put in place as a result of the CSB investigation recommendations resulted in an early shutdown of today's release. Our investigators will be looking at those systems, including chlorine sensors, alarms and shutoff valves, to determine their effectiveness. These findings will be shared with other chlorine users and handlers in the interest of preventing future incidents."
Chairman Merritt noted the CSB has investigated several chlorine release incidents at other companies, including a significant one in Festus, MO, south of St. Louis that involved the failure of a transfer hose carrying chlorine between a rail car tanker and the facility. That incident, at DPC Enterprises, occurred because a hose made of the wrong materials was installed, resulting in corrosion and failure. "We will be looking for any similarities that may exist between these incidents," Ms. Merritt said, adding that the CSB issued a Safety Advisory to the industry regarding chlorine transfer hoses in November 2002. The full investigation report on the previous incidents, including safety recommendations to Honeywell International and other recipients, may be found at www.CSB.gov.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems.
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. Please visit our website, www.CSB.gov. For more information, contact Sandy Gilmour 202-261-7614, cell 202-251-5496 or Lindsey Heyl, 202-261-3614, cell 703-303-7499.