Specialty Silicone LLC Fined $1.6 Million After Site Explosion and Four Employees Died

After a devastating explosion at a silicon company on May 3 of this year, OSHA just announced it will fine the company over one million dollars.

Earlier this year, Specialty Silicone LLC site in Waukegan, IL exploded—eventually taking four individuals’ lives, scorching the surrounding area, and causing almost $1 million in damages. An investigation of the travesty has been ongoing for months, and a recent announcement closed the investigation and issued an official OSHA citation for the company.

OSHA cited the company for “12 willful federal safety violations,” and it faces exactly $1.591 million in penalties, according to an OSHA statement. The silicon chemical products manufacturer has also been placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The May 3 explosion had a rippling effect: members of northern Lake County heard the noise from miles away, and as many as seven nearby buildings were affected by the blast.

The company failed to ensure a number of safety and health protocol, which led to the explosion. While the investigation could not prove exactly which chemicals were involved in the explosion, it did note that the company failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations complied with OSHA standards. The company also did not ensure that equipment and installations were approved for hazardous locations.

“The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition,” the OSHA statement added.

The investigation determined that the explosions was not intentional or pre-meditated; it resulted from a mixture of chemicals that reacted and caused an explosion. But while not intentional, the incident is an example for why companies have an obligation to ensure the safety of their workers by complying with regulations and standards.

“By ignoring safety and health requirements, this employer created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.

Specialty Silicone LLC has cooperated with the agency’s investigation, and it has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the OSHA statement said.

One Chicago Tribune article reports the lives lost:

Jeff Cummings, 57, of Kenosha, a motorcycle enthusiast and third-shift production supervisor who had spent seven years with the company; Byron Biehn, 53, of Union Grove, Wisconsin, second-shift production supervisor who had been with AB Specialty Silicones for nine years, and was an owner of the company; Allen Stevens, 29, of Paddock Lake, Wisc., a second-shift chemical operator who had been with the company for two years and also was an owner; and Daniel Nicklas, of Beach Park, who was a quality control chemist and had been with the company eight months.

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