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CSB releases safety video after AB investigation

May 25, 2022
Explosion that killed four workers, destroyed Illinois facility, caused by mixing incompatible chemicals during emulsion production, agency says

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released a new safety video on its investigation into an explosion and fire that occurred in May 2019 at the AB Specialty Silicones facility in Waukegan, Ill. The incident killed four workers, destroyed the facility, and caused extensive damage to nearby businesses.

The CSB’s new safety video includes an animation of the events leading up to the incident, and interviews with both the CSB’s chairperson and lead investigator. 

At AB Specialty Silicones, two incompatible chemicals were mixed during production of an emulsion product. The chemicals reacted and produced flammable hydrogen gas that ignited, causing the fatal explosion.

The incident is one of many investigated by the CSB during the agency’s history that resulted from inadequate recognition and evaluation of reactive chemical hazards. In its report, the agency made recommendations to AB Specialty Silicones and reiterated recommendations to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency with the goal of addressing the regulatory gap covering reactive chemicals. 

“It is past time for regulators to fully recognize the hazards presented by reactive chemicals,” Katherine Lemos, CSB chairperson, said in the video. “We call on OSHA and EPA to update their regulatory standards to include better coverage of reactive chemicals. Closing the regulatory gap will prevent further tragic incidents and save lives.

“Together, we can impact safety for our chemical industries, our workers, our community, and our environment.”

CSB’s full investigation report is available here.