Massachusetts Chemical Company Cited by US Department of Labor for Violations Related to Combustible Dust and Chemical Processes Following Deadly Explosion

In Andover, Massachusetts, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that a Newburyport-based pharmaceutical and chemical company, along with its parent company, could have averted a fatal employee accident caused by an explosion on May 4, 2023. This incident occurred due to inadequate safety measures in a specific chemical process.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration‘s probe into PolyCarbon Industries Inc./SEQENS SAS highlighted several shortcomings in the firm’s management of hazardous chemicals, particularly in the production and drying of Dekon 139, and in handling combustible dust dangers. A pressure vessel’s explosion during this process led to the tragic death of an employee.

The investigation pinpointed that PolyCarbon/SEQENS failed in several areas, including:

1. Assessing the flammability risks of substances in the Dekon 139 manufacturing process, thus exposing workers to potential fire and explosion hazards due to combustible dust.
2. Setting appropriate temperature boundaries to prevent Dekon 139 from decomposing.
3. Evaluating the potential impacts of deviations during the Dekon 139 manufacturing process.
4. Formulating written guidelines to ensure continuous reliability of process equipment and provide explicit instructions on the ramifications of deviating from operational procedures.
5. Updating process safety details to reflect measures preventing deviations in temperature, as well as the properties and dangers of chemicals involved in the process.
6. Revising standard operating procedures for Dekon 139 production and its safety information sheet.
7. Discussing a compliance audit report from November 2022 with all employees involved in relevant job duties.
8. Keeping track of injuries and illnesses of contract workers related to their tasks in process areas.

As a result, OSHA issued 11 citations against PolyCarbon Industries Inc./SEQENS SAS, including eight serious, two repeated, and one other-than-serious violation, proposing fines totaling $298,254.

OSHA’s Area Director in Andover, Sarah Carle, emphasized the stringent and comprehensive nature of OSHA’s Process Safety Management standards, noting the grave consequences of non-compliance, as seen in this tragic incident. She stressed the importance of employers diligently and continually updating and maintaining safety processes to identify and mitigate hazards to ensure worker safety.

PolyCarbon Industries Inc./SEQENS SAS has a 15-day period from receiving the citations and fines to comply, arrange an informal meeting with OSHA’s area director, or challenge the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

SEQENS SAS, operating under its previous name, PCI Synthesis, runs 24 manufacturing sites and three R&D centers across North America, Europe, and Asia. The Newburyport location is a chemical-processing facility involved in manufacturing, drying, packaging, and testing pharmaceutical intermediates and custom chemicals.

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