PITTSBURGH – A 2010 explosion that killed two workers at a former Horsehead Corp. zinc oxide plant in western Pennsylvania was caused by recurring problems with a sump system that the company failed to address, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board reported.
“Human factors played a dominant role” in the explosion at the plant near Monaca, Beaver County, according to the report by William H. Hunter, a British metallurgist hired to study the blast.
In reference to the system meant to drain the volatile chemical from a distillation column, Hunter said, “In short, because of a history of column blockage and explosions at the Monaca facility, hazardous conditions had been ‘normalised (sic).’ ”
James Taylor, 53, of Aliquippa, and Corey Keller, 41, of Newell, West Virginia, died of smoke inhalation from the flash fire and explosion July 22, 2010.
The plant has since closed.
The chemical board doesn’t have the power to fine or cite businesses, but investigates accidents so lessons can be passed on to manufacturers, unions and government regulators designed to prevent similar incidents.