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Explosion at a Chocolate Factory

Explosion at a Chocolate Factory

Explosion at a Chocolate Factory

In March, an explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania killed seven people and wounded at least 10 others. Some workers said they smelled natural gas prior to the explosion at R.M. Palmer Co. 

Survivor landed in chocolate tank

One of the survivors, an employee named Patricia Borges, fell through into a vat of chocolate when the floor collapsed from the blast. She broke a collar bone and both heels, but the liquid chocolate put out the flames burning her arm. She waited 9 hours to be rescued. 

Borges thinks the factory should have evacuated after workers complained of the gas odor. The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has called the accident a natural gas explosion. But an official cause has yet to be determined. The NTSB is the lead on the investigation. Though other agencies, including OSHA, are investigating as well.

R.M. Palmer posted on their Facebook page that they are devastated by the tragedy and are cooperating with the investigation.

Explosive hazards in manufacturing

Unfortunately, explosions are a common hazard in manufacturing, including in food manufacturing. Commercial ovens and furnaces often run on natural gas. And powdered ingredients can create combustible dusts.  Cocoa powder and starch, both used in the manufacture of chocolate candy, are explosive hazards. It is possible that combustible dusts contributed to the Palmer factory blast.

Previous accidents at Palmer

OSHA fined R.M. Palmer $13,000 in 2018 when an employee lost a finger tip. They were cleaning a pressurized valve at the time of the accident. In 2019, the company paid OSHA $26,000 because a conveyor belt broke an employee’s arm. This past January, OSHA fined them $12,000 for an undisclosed incident.

Another chocolate factory accident

In a previous META blog, we discussed a separate incident at a Mars Wrigley factory. Two workers fell into a tank partially filled with chocolate. Rescuers cut into the vat to rescue the workers. OSHA cited Mars for not providing the workers with proper procedures on isolating flowable hazards.

Factory explosion survivor, on fire, fell into chocolate vat

R.M. Palmer Company releases statement

Deadly chocolate factory blast highlights combustion risks

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