Cal/OSHA has cited explosives manufacturer Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company $293,235 for multiple serious and willful accident-related workplace safety violations following an investigation of an explosion in Hollister that seriously injured a worker.

How it happened

On December 1, 2016, a technician was preparing explosives in metal tubing, known as Small Column Insulated Delays (SCIDs), for neutron radiation analysis. She had mounted 79 SCIDs onto aluminum support brackets attached to an aluminum metal tray. While attempting to apply tape to secure the SCIDs to the tray, 75 of the 79 tubes exploded. The explosion sent metal shrapnel flying in all directions, seriously injuring the technician.

Why it happened

Cal/OSHA inspectors determined that Pacific Scientific failed to take the steps necessary to protect the worker from explosive hazards. The willful serious violations included the employer’s failure to:

• Protect the employee’s workstation from the explosive tubes in the holder, despite Pacific Scientific’s own manufacturing procedures that require the use of a safety shield when working with the loaded holders.
• Identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with handling the explosive tubes during their manufacture.
• Provide clear written instructions on how to mount the SCIDs safely to a metal tray for required analysis.

“This explosives manufacturer put employees at risk by failing to follow their own safety procedures, and unfortunately a worker was seriously injured,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

As a result of the inspection following the 2016 accident, Cal/OSHA cited Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company for nine workplace safety and health violations, three of them in the willful-serious category with four serious and two general.

A history of worker injuries

This is not the first time Pacific Scientific has been cited for neglecting their workers’ safety. In a 2007 explosion accident, an employee suffered serious burns and needed to be airlifted to intensive care. Cal/OSHA issued general citations for lack of required body protection and serious citations regarding the manufacturer’s lack of a safety plan. More recently, a 2015 accident caused another serious injury. Again, Cal/OSHA citations noted a failure to identify a hazardous practice safety plan.

Cal/OSHA’s PSM Unit is responsible for inspecting refineries and chemical plants that handle large quantities of toxic and flammable materials. Health and safety standards enforced by the PSM Unit, including adequate worker training and participation, are intended to prevent catastrophic explosions, fires, and releases of dangerous chemicals, which could harm workers.