Investigation continues into the cause of a fatal explosion and fire at the West Pharmaceutical Services factory in Kinston, North Carolina. Three employees died and more than 25 others were injured. At the time of the incident, about 130 people were in the facility. North Carolina’s governor commented, “I am absolutely amazed that we didn’t have a hundred people killed.”
Following up on interviews with more than 100 witnesses, experts suspect that the explosion originated in an area where a synthetic rubber compound (polyisoprene) was processed. Oils and fillers are added to the rubber during the process, which could produce substantial quantities of dust. A concentration of ignitable dust could have created the detonation.
Investigators from OSHA, The Chemical Safety Board (“CSB”) and the FBI are attempting to piece together the activities leading up to the explosion that destroyed the factory where syringe plungers and IV equipment were made. The site had been inspected and cited last October, according to OSHA. The $10,000 original fines were reduced to about $9,000 last month. Problems with portable fire extinguishers, hazardous waste operations, and electrical systems were the basis of the citations. The cause-finding effort is expected to take between six and twelve months.