Issue Date: August 6, 2007
Runaway Reaction Blamed For Accident
Inability to manage a reactive chemical process led to a deadly accident at Synthron chemical company, in Morganton, N.C., last year, according a Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board report. The board also found that the company was unprepared for an emergency and that inadequate oversight by French parent company Protex International contributed to the accident's severity. Synthron is a manufacturer of acrylic polymers used as additives in paint and coatings manufacturing. The accident occurred when the batch size of a 1,500-gal process vessel was exceeded in order to increase production for a large order. The heat of the reaction could not be controlled, resulting in a flammable explosion killing a maintenance supervisor and injuring 14 workers as well as destroying the plant, a home, and two churches, the board reports. Synthron had never documented the maximum capacity of the cooling equipment, nor had the reactor's condenser been cleaned in the past 30 years, the board found. The company has filed for bankruptcy, and the facility has not been rebuilt. A video depicting this accident and three similar ones is available online at csb.gov.
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