OSHA Cites Contractor in Redstone Arsenal Fatal Explosion

Two workers died of burns after an explosion in May involving ammonium perchlorate and n-Butanol.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Amtec Corp., a contractor at the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., and fined it $134,400 in connection with a May 2010 explosion that killed two workers. They suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of their bodies in the explosion, which occurred as they attempted to purify ammonium perchlorate by removing it from a mixture that also contained n-Butanol, a flammable liquid.

"Management knew the hazards associated with ammonium perchlorate recovery and failed to ensure the proper equipment was being used, while also allowing the workers to process the material in excess of 10 times the amount of explosives according to the Army's standard operating procedures," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham, Ala.

OSHA issued two willful violations for allegedly exposing the workers to fire and explosive hazards by not verifying the suitability of the equipment being used to process ammonium perchlorate and n-Butanol slurry and for operating the system adjacent to a decanter centrifuge instead of in a remote location. Four serious citations were issued for hazards related to dispensing n-Butanol to containers without bonding between the containers or the building's grounding system, storing more than 120 gallons of n-Butanol in an area where the ammonium perchlorate recovery process was being conducted, allowing sources of ignition in a location where flammable vapors could accumulate, and failing to provide flame-retardant clothing for each worker.

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