CSB Releases Case Study of Concept Sciences Explosion

February 1, 2002

(Washington, DC - February 1, 2002) The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board today issued a case study of a destructive explosion that occurred at the plant of Concept Sciences Inc., near Allentown, PA, on February 19, 1999.

As a result of the explosion four Concept Sciences employees and the manager of an adjacent business were killed. Two Concept Sciences employees were injured, as were four people in nearby buildings. The explosion damaged ten buildings and several residences in the immediate area.

The case study found that the explosion was most likely due to high concentration and temperature in a process vessel containing several hundred pounds of hydroxylamine, a potentially explosive chemical used in the manufacture of semiconductors.

Concept Sciences' process safety management systems were insufficient to properly address the hazards inherent in its manufacturing process. The case study added that "Basic chemical engineering practices - such as process design reviews, hazard analyses, and reviews by appropriate technical experts - were not adequately implemented."

Finally, the case study pointed out that the local zoning process allowed a highly hazardous production facility to be located inappropriately in a light industrial park.

The CSB is an independent federal agency whose mission is to ensure the safety of workers and the public by preventing chemical incidents. The CSB is a scientific investigatory organization, not an enforcement or regulatory body. The Board determines the root causes of accidents, issues safety recommendations, and performs special studies on chemical safety issues.

For further information, contact Robert Wager at (202) 261-7636.

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