People in Kansas City may have heard about the devastating explosion at an industrial plant in Omaha that took place on Jan. 20. Two workers were killed in the ensuing collapse of the building, and 17 more were injured.
As the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration launches its investigation into this horrific workplace accident, initial evidence suggests one of two possible scenarios.
The plant, owned by Industrial Nutrition, made additives for use in livestock and poultry feed. That process may have involved grinding up of materials, which can release super-fine dust into the building’s atmosphere. Dust particles can be flammable; a large enough dust cloud can trigger an explosion.
There was a fire at the plant, but witness accounts differ. Some say that the fire caused the second and third stories to collapse onto the first, but others said that the building collapsed first, causing a loud boom and igniting the dust particles.
No matter which way the incident happened, it is known that 38 people were inside. While the majority was able to escape without serious injury, two men were killed, and 10 other workers were taken to nearby hospitals.
The deceased men were caught in the collapse. They were 53 and 47 years old.
Though the building was badly damaged, and likely will have to be razed, OSHA was able to enter the remains to take pictures and gather evidence. The investigation will hopefully determine the chain of events in this disaster. It could also reveal whether it was in any way due to unsafe working conditions, or negligence on the part of the company.
Source: The Kansas City Star, “OSHA seeking cause of Omaha industrial accident,” Margery A. Beck, Jan. 22, 2014