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Explosives Manufacturer Cited After Explosion Injures Worker

A technician was preparing explosives for radiation analysis when 75 of the 79 items exploded.

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Cal/OSHA has cited explosives manufacturer Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company $293,235 for multiple serious and willful accident-related workplace safety violations. This follows an investigation of an explosion that seriously injured a worker at their Hollister, California plant.

On December 1, 2016, a technician was preparing explosives in metal tubing, known as Small Column Insulated Delays (SCIDs), for neutron radiation analysis. She had mounted 79 SCIDs onto aluminum support brackets attached to an aluminum metal tray. While attempting to apply tape to secure the SCIDs to the tray, 75 of the 79 tubes exploded.

The explosion sent metal shrapnel flying in all directions, seriously injuring the technician. Cal/OSHA inspectors determined that Pacific Scientific failed to take the steps necessary to protect the worker from explosive hazards. The willful serious violations included the employer’s failure to:

  • Protect the employee’s workstation from the explosive tubes in the holder, despite Pacific Scientific’s own manufacturing procedures that require the use of a safety shield when working with the loaded holders.
  • Identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with handling the explosive tubes during their manufacture.
  • Provide clear, written instructions on how to mount the SCIDs safely to a metal tray for required analysis.

As a result of the inspection following the 2016 accident, Cal/OSHA cited Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company for nine workplace safety and health violations, three of them in the willful-serious category with four serious and two general.

This is not the first time Pacific Scientific has been cited for neglecting their workers’ safety. In a 2007 explosion accident, an employee suffered serious burns and needed to be airlifted to intensive care. Cal/OSHA issued general citations for lack of required body protection and serious citations regarding the manufacturer’s lack of a safety plan. More recently, a 2015 accident caused another serious injury. Again, Cal/OSHA citations noted a failure to identify a hazardous practice safety plan.

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