North Andover Chemical Processing Plant Explosion
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and North Andover Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas announced the conclusion of the origin and cause investigation into Wednesday’s explosion at the Dow Chemical Industrial Complex at 60 Willow Street, North Andover. The explosion and ensuing fire took the life of 51-year old Carlos Amaral of Peabody, who worked in the lab where the explosion occurred.
The cause of the explosion that led to the fire was the exposure of Trimethylindium, a pyrophoric chemical, to the air. Chief Melnikas said, “Either there was a malfunction of the container or human error.”
The origin and cause of the fire was jointly investigated by members of the North Andover Fire Department, detectives from the North Andover Police Department and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a concurrent independent investigation due to the workplace fatality. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has requested information on the incident.
The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations created new fire code requirements for hazardous materials processing (527 CMR 33.00) as a result of several major chemical explosions in the state. The Code Compliance Unit of the Office of the State Fire Marshal is working with the North Andover Fire Department to review fire code issues. Preliminary indications are that the company would not need to apply for a permit from the fire department for the process conducted in this lab until January 1, 2014 under new regulations being phased in this year. Coan said, “I believe the chemical process safety regulations being phased in will provide better communication and coordination with the fire service and lead to improved fire safety for workers and communities.”