Sugar Refinery Explosion Report Says Fire Entirely Preventable
At the time, it was one of the worst industrial disasters in the country, and the most devastating Georgia Workers’ Compensation lawyers had seen in decades. When combustible sugar dust at a refinery near Savannah ignited and exploded last year, it set off a blazing fire that razed much of the facility. Fourteen 14 workers at the Imperial Sugar Refinery were killed and 36 injured, many of them severely burnt. Now, the Chemical Safety Board has issued its report on the accident, and the agency’s findings are a damning indictment of the plant’s managers and owners.
According to the report, there were several factors that were to blame for the explosion, and all of them were entirely preventable. Poor maintenance, improper equipment design and substandard housekeeping were at the root of the explosion and fire. Worse, according to the report, managers were aware about the dangers of an explosion from combustible sugar dust, but failed to take measures to prevent the tragedy. In fact, the sugar industry had been aware of the dangers of sugar dust igniting and setting off an explosion and fire, as far back as 1925.
The Chemical Safety Board report says the Savannah explosion most likely occurred inside a conveyor that had been enclosed. The enclosed conveyer created a small confined space where sugar dust accumulated, generating conditions that were ripe for a dangerous explosion.When Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials conducted an inspection after the tragedy, they found that in some places, sugar dust accumulation was up to four feet deep.
In July, last year OSHA proposed that a fine of $8.7 million be imposed on Imperial Sugar, which has appealed the fine.