Chemcentral accused of safety violations linked to Feb. blast in KC

Friday, July 20, 2007 | 5:13 p.m. CDT; updated 9:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Federal regulators today cited a chemical company for a series of alleged safety violations tied to an explosion at the company’s Kansas City distribution plant in February.

The fire and series of blasts at the Chemcentral Corp. plant in Kansas City’s East Bottoms neighborhood on Feb. 7 destroyed most of the 5-acre facility, injured two workers and cast a pall of black smoke over much of the city.

Fire officials determined a blaze started when employees were offloading a petroleum-based product. Several 55-gallon drums ignited, touching off explosions.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration today recommended fining the Chicago-based company $126,500, saying it found two willful and four serious violations at the plant.

The alleged willful violations included improper storage and handling of liquids and failure to provide guardrails or other fall protection for employees working on top of aboveground storage tanks. The alleged serious violations included having storage tanks too close together, failure to train employees on physical hazards of liquids and not providing adequate exits.

“Chemical distribution facilities have the potential to be extremely dangerous,” Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, said in a statement. “Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful.”

The company said it was reviewing the OSHA report and has 15 days to determine whether it wants to challenge any of the citations.

“Chemcentral fully cooperated with OSHA throughout its inspection and will continue to do so,” the company said in a statement.

The company has continued to operate out of undamaged office space at the plant since the accident and is deciding whether to rebuild on the same site or move the plant elsewhere, said company spokesman Jeff Xouris.

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