CSB to Investigate Fatal Explosion and Fire at Universal Form Clamp Co. in Bellwood, Illinois

June 26, 2008

Chicago, Illinois, June 28, 2006 - The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today announced it will pursue an investigation of the fatal explosion and fire at Universal Form Clamp Company in Bellwood, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 14, 2006, an explosion and fire occurred in a mixing room at the facility, causing one fatality and five injuries.

The incident occurred while workers were heating and mixing flammable solvents in an open tank. At the time of the incident there were approximately 11,000 pounds of a mixture of heptane and mineral spirits in the open-top tank. Heptane is a highly flammable and volatile liquid that is a component of gasoline.

During the heating process there was a sudden evolution of flammable vapors from the tank. The vapors ignited, causing an explosion and fire. Combustible chemicals stored nearby also caught fire and burned for two hours until the blaze was extinguished by local firefighters.

CSB investigators arrived at the facility on Thursday, June 15, 2006, to assess the incident, interview witnesses and employees, and examine the site. According to eyewitness interviews, the injured workers were not in the mixing room, but in adjacent work areas. CSB interviews indicate that the fatally injured worker was a delivery driver who was not employed by Universal Form Clamp Company.

Universal Form Clamp Co. is a manufacturer and supplier of construction products and chemicals. The facility changed ownership about six weeks prior to the incident. The company has been cooperating fully with the investigation.

CSB Board Member John Bresland said, "The Board is concerned about the practice of mixing and heating flammable liquids in open tanks without appropriate safeguards. Our investigation will examine facility procedures as well as the adequacy of fire codes, standards, and local permitting and enforcement."

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. 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.

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, regulations, and industry standards. Visit our website www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact: In Chicago, Public Affairs Specialist Kara Wenzel, 202-577-8448 (cell), or Jennifer Jones 202-329-5335 (cell). In Washington, DC, contact Daniel Horowitz at 202-261-7613.


Back to news