Report: Poor upkeep, evacuation planning led to 14 deaths at sugar plant
Poor maintenance and housekeeping caused the violent explosions that killed 14 workers at a sugar plant near Savannah last year, and weak evacuation procedures may have prevented some of the victims from escaping, federal regulators reported today.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board cited these key factors in the February 2008 explosions and fire at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth:
— Conveying equipment was not designed or mmaintained to minimize the dispersal of flammable sugar dust.
— Inadequate housekeeping allowed large quantities of dust to accumulate on floors and elevated areas inside the plant
— The “minimum explosile concentration,” probably ignited by an overheated bearing, accumulated inside a newly enclosed steel assembly belt
— The blast ignited secondary explosions and fires throughout the plant that probably killed most or all of the victims
— Inadequate evacuation plans contributed to the tragedy:
“Emergency notifications inside
the refinery and packaging buildings were announced only to personnel using 2-way radios
and cell phones. Many workers had to rely on face-to-face verbal alerts in the event of an
emergency. Also, the company did not conduct emergency evacuation drills.”
The report will be officially released and discussed at tonight at a news conference at the DeSoto Hilton in Savannah.