US Chemical Safety Board:
Washington, DC, February 8, 2008 - A six-member investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the site of last night's explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, northwest of Savannah, near the South Carolina state line.
Preliminary media reports, citing the company chief executive, attributed the blast to an explosion of sugar dust. Dozens were reported to be critically injured, and others were reported missing.
The investigative team is led by John B. Vorderbrueggen, P.E., and includes CSB Board Member William Wark, who will serve as the principal spokesperson, and CSB investigations manager Stephen Selk, P.E. The team is expected to arrive midday on Friday.
The CSB completed a study of combustible dust explosions in November 2006, which identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that killed 119 workers and injured 718, and extensively damaged industrial facilities. A total of 24% of the explosions occurred in the food industry, including several at sugar plants.
The CSB report on Combustible Dust Hazards is available from CSB.gov under Completed Investigations.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.