Eighteen of the 21 workers injured in an explosion at a Texas chemical plant on Saturday have been released from hospitals after being treated for burn injuries and injuries from falling off a scaffold, according to news sources.

Dual investigations

Both the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and OSHA are investigating the incident at the Kuraray America facility in Pasadena, which may have been caused by a leak of ethylene, a highly flammable gas used in the manufacture of plastics. The facility manufactures ethylene vinyl-alcohol copolymers, sold as EVALTM. Kuraray America is a Tokyo-based specialty chemical manufacturer.

The company said in a statement yesterday that early findings indicate that one of the plant’s reactors leaked ethylene that then caught fire. The company also said that it is cooperating with the investigations, although the Houston Chronicle is reporting that attorneys retained by nine of the injured workers have obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent Kuraray America from destroying evidence related to the explosion.

The CSB investigation is expected to take at least a year to complete. A four person team will be gathering evidence and statements at the site of the explosion for several weeks, according to spokesman Tom Zoeller.

Sutherland stepping down

In other CSB news, Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland announced yesterday that she is resigning from the position of Chair and Board Member next month.

“I am saddened to leave the wonderful mission and incredible work of the CSB. This mission is unique and critically important because we are the only agency conducting independent, comprehensive root cause chemical incident investigations,” said Sutherland in a statement. “As we continue to recognize the agency’s 20th anniversary of operations, we still have much work to do to achieve our vision of a nation safe from chemical disasters.”

The board members will be required to vote on an interim executive, unless and until the White House nominates and the Senate confirms a new Chairperson.

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. For more information, contact public@csb.gov.