The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released new information concerning the massive explosion on December 19 at the T2 Laboratories plant in Jacksonville, Florida.Â The disasterÂ killed four men out of the nine total who were working at the time.Â In their announcement, the CSB investigators indicated that 33 people—more than double the number originally reported—suffered lacerations, contusions and temporary hearing loss from flying and falling debris.Â The majority of the injured were individuals workingÂ in other facilitiesÂ in the same industrial complex.This is the 3rd time in about a month that the CSB has provided information to the public about their work at the disaster site.Â Â Its fellow-federal agencies—OSHA, ATF and NTSB—have also been (or are still) involved in the investigation, but I can’t find a word on their websitesÂ or in press accountsÂ aboutÂ the status ofÂ theirÂ work.Â Â (Telephone inquiries to their public affairs officesÂ have not yet beenÂ returned.)Â Â Â
Because the CSB continues to provide regular updates with information about what they’ve learned to-date, the local mediaÂ continues to cover the workplace safety story (WJXX, WTLV)WJXT followed-up with a newcast featuringÂ Mr. Leon Bolden, someone who wasÂ near the site at the time of the blast.
“…the force of the explosion threw him to the ground. ‘I injured my back, my neck, my arms — it gave me an excruciating headache,’ Bolden said. ‘I thought I was dead.'”Â
Although the siteÂ was too dangerous for investigators to enter, the CSB staff were using their time wisely,Â conducting more thanÂ 50 interviews of witnesses—including workers at the adjacent businesses.Â It was through that “shoe leather” investigation that the CSBÂ identified theÂ dozens of additional people injured by the blast.Â CSB lead investigator Robert HallÂ noted that many of the injuredÂ sought medical attention on their own.Â Without doing this “door-to-door survey,” these injuries would have been lost in theÂ official injury count, which would normally only include those treated at the scene or transported from the scene to the hospital.Â I’m encouraged to learnÂ that the CSB’sÂ investigation looks beyond the immediate explosion-scene worksite toÂ theÂ broader impact on adjacent workplaces and the community.Â More importantly,Â because theÂ CSBÂ has been providing these regular updates—and even if the information is minimal—it increases the likelihood thatÂ worker and environmental safety and health issues will be covered by the press and thus, stayÂ in the public’sÂ and policymakers’ consciousness.Â In order to advanceÂ a more robust,Â protective andÂ precautionaryÂ public healthÂ agenda, these issuesÂ need toÂ be on the public’s radar screen.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â One person who says she will keep this disaster in her sightÂ is Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D) who represents the Jacksonville,Â Florida region where theÂ T2 Laboratory plant was located.Â SheÂ announced:
“In response to this horrible explosion, I have been working on a draft letter to the Department of Labor concerning the possibility of labor violations at the site. The goal of the letter is to reinforce Chairman Miller and Chairwoman Woolsey’s letter [here], in which they were looking into the possibility that if OSHA had adopted strongerÂ regulations (as suggested by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board), perhaps this tragedy could have been averted. In addition, I am also drafting a second letter to the EPA to ensure that the surrounding area is properly cleaned.”Â
Kudos to the CSB for keeping us apprized of their work.Â I’ll let you know if I hear back from OSHA, ATF or NTSB.