HOUSTON (Feb. 1, 2011) — Better emergency training and safety procedures might have prevented the death of one worker and the injury of six others in a heat exchanger rupture and ammonia release at Goodyear's Houston synthetic rubber plant on June 11, 2008, according to a case study from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).
Although Goodyear's emergency response plans scheduled a plant evacuation drill four times a year, workers told the CSB there had been no drills at the facility for four years before the accident, the case study said. Ammonia vapor and emergency water sprays prevented workers from reaching the emergency alarm pull-boxes, and there were problems with Goodyear's plans for accounting for workers in an emergency, the CSB said.
“Some of the employees who were responsible for accountability were unaware prior to the incident that their jobs could include this task in an emergency,” the study said. “Since the fatally injured employee was a member of the emergency response team, area supervisors did not consider her absence from the muster point unusual.”
The CSB recommended greater vigilance in both conducting emergency response drills and communicating plant conditions between maintenance and operations personnel.
In a statement, Goodyear called the accident “a horrible tragedy” and said it continued to keep the family of Gloria McInnis, the worker who was killed, and the other victims in its thoughts and prayers.
“Goodyear has worked closely with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the CSB and TCEQ (the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) to address all of the items noted by these groups, and made significant investments of time and capital to strengthen its procedures,” the Akron-based tire maker said.