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CSB Gives Update on OH Paint Explosion

Thursday, April 22, 2021

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Upon early investigations into the paint explosion that occurred at the Yenkin-Majestic Paints plant in Northeast Columbus earlier this month, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has announced its first update regarding the incident.

The family-owned business is a manufacturer of paints, resins and other coatings. In new reports, the explosion has been linked to four non-serious injuries, five hospitalizations and one fatality.

What Happened

At 12:05 a.m. on the morning of April 8, Columbus Fire was called to respond to a report of an explosion along Leonard Avenue at the Yenkin-Majestic Paints plant. The company is reported to have 180 employees, 21 of which were working in the facility at the time of the explosion.

As a result of the explosion, eight plant workers were reported to be injured at the time, but were later reported to be in stable condition by Columbus Fire. Of the eight reported, however, Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin said that crews had to rescue two employees that were trapped inside.

“While the fire was still burning, with limited visibility we had rescue crews go in and find the two individuals. It was kind of like they were involved in a car accident. We had to use special tools to pry them out,” Martin was quoted.

By the morning, rescue teams also made the discovery of one deceased plant worker, 44-year-old Wendell Light, who was located partially buried under the rubble. Light was a pressroom supervisor for Yenkin-Majestic Paint.

Andrew Smith, CEO of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, released this statement following the deadly blast, “The Yenkin-Majestic family is deeply saddened today. Early this morning, a serious fire broke out at our manufacturing facility on Leonard Avenue in Columbus. Tragically, one of our colleagues died and eight others suffered injuries that required medical treatment. As a family-owned company, we are focused right now on the family of the deceased, Wendell Light, and the health and well-being of our injured colleagues and their families. Our thoughts are also with our neighbors that were impacted by this incident.

“We are working hand in hand with the Columbus Fire Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies as they investigate. We are committed to uncovering the details behind this tragic accident. The welfare of our employees is of the utmost importance to our family. We are in the process of communicating with all of our colleagues to make sure they are informed and supported in every way needed.”

Yenkin-Majestic is a Process Safety Management site that falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for highly hazardous chemicals. In the days following the incident, hazmat teams were on the scene to help due to the hazards presented by the materials within the building.

An OSHA compliance officer was on the scene the morning following the blast and reported that the Administration had launched an investigation.

“OSHA compliance officers are at the location and are interviewing the employer, employees and witnesses, to determine if the company was following all OSHA standards and regulations,” said Scott Allen, a U.S. Department of Labor regional director for public affairs and media relations. “OSHA will not have any further information until they have completed their investigation, which, by law, they have 6 months to complete.”

Previous Incidents

According to records on the regulatory agency's website, Yenkin-Majestic has had five past cases: two in 2011 (one involving the death of another employee), one in 2012, a follow-up in 2014, and one in 2015. However, the Leonard Avenue location has had 24 total violations since 2011, including 15 “serious” violations labeled by OSHA, in which the plant reached a settlement to pay $76,203.

In 2012, the plant was cited for “a cloud containing flammable vapors was released,” which was reportedly caused by a "copolymer reaction" of flammable chemicals when over-pressurization occurred in some equipment. No injuries were reported in that incident.

Investigation Update

According to the latest CSB update on the investigation of the Yenkin-Majestic Paints plant explosion, the OPC Polymer Unit of the facility—a separate unit from the company's paint and industrial coatings divisions—was operating normally at the time of the explosion.

However, to that regard, the CSB reports that the initial cause of the explosion seems to have been linked to a metallic kettle reactor that burst during the manufacturing of alkyd polyester resin. The kettle reactor is heated by a gas furnace.

Following the explosion and associated fires, other smaller explosions took place involving chemicals and other products stored in tanks, which resulted in the collapse of the OPC Polymer Unit.

The CSB estimates that the total damages are over $1 million. A number of materials are stored in the facility, including maleic anhydride, phthalic anhydride, xylene, and mineral spirits. As of last week, the company had not yet provided the quantities of the materials at the site during the event.

While a full investigation has yet to be concluded to assess the damages and determine the cause of the incident, the CSB, OSHA and associated companies are scheduling interviews with the facility’s employees and management. The CSB adds that it is coordinating its work with OSHA in its investigation.

By law, the Administration has six months to issue a citation following any discovered violations. The CBS does not however, have the authority to issue citations or levy fines with its investigations and simply investigates to make recommendations after chemical incidents.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Coatings; Construction chemicals; Explosions; Fatalities; hazardous materials; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA

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