CSB issues final report on Bayer blast

January 26, 2011

Institute, WV – Inadequate training, deviating from written startup procedures and equipment malfunctions contributed to the 2008 Bayer CropScience pesticide manufacturing unit explosion in West Virginia, according to a new Chemical Safety Board final investigation report (.pdf file).

Released Jan. 20, the report said multiple mistakes during the startup of a methomyl unit led to a runaway chemical reaction inside a pressure vessel, resulting in a violent explosion that killed two workers and injured eight others.

Before the incident, the unit had been shut down for maintenance for an extended period of time. Investigators concluded that, under pressure to resume pesticide production, Bayer prematurely restarted the unit before completing valve lineups, equipment checkouts, a pre-start safety view and computer calibration. The company also bypassed critical safety devices, according to CSB.

Board member John Bresland, who was chairman at the time of the incident, noted in a press release that Bayer’s fire brigade arrived in minutes, but management withheld key information from county emergency response agencies.

CSB recommended Bayer review and revise unit standard operating procedures and ensure proper training of the fire brigade, and that OSHA expand its coverage of the Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program (.pdf file).

In a statement, Steve Hedrick, vice president and head of the Bayer CropScience Institute Industrial Park, highlighted the company’s cooperation with CSB and outlined steps taken since the blast to improve safety.