CSB Releases New Safety Video Incompatible Chemicals: Explosion at AB Specialty Silicones

April 28, 2022

Washington D.C., April 28, 2022 - Today, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a new safety video on its investigation into a massive explosion and fire that occurred in May of 2019 at the AB Specialty Silicones facility in Waukegan, IL. The incident killed four workers, destroyed the facility, and caused extensive damage to nearby businesses.

The CSB's new safety video includes an animation of the events leading up to the incident, and interviews with both the CSB’s Chairperson and Lead Investigator.  

At AB Specialty Silicones, two incompatible chemicals were mixed during production of an emulsion product. The chemicals reacted and produced flammable hydrogen gas that ignited, causing the fatal explosion.

The incident is one of many investigated by the CSB during the agency’s history that resulted from inadequate recognition and evaluation of reactive chemical hazards. In its report, the agency made recommendations to AB Specialty Silicones and reiterated recommendations to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Environmental Protection Agency with the goal of addressing the regulatory gap covering reactive chemicals.  

Chairperson Lemos concludes the video by saying, “It is past time for regulators to fully recognize the hazards presented by reactive chemicals. We call on OSHA and EPA to update their regulatory standards to include better coverage of reactive chemicals. Closing the regulatory gap will prevent further tragic incidents and save lives. Together,  we can impact safety for our chemical industries, our workers, our community, and our environment.”

Access the CSB's Investigation Information Page HERE.  

The CSB’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.

The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at [email protected].

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