Official Determine Chemical Leak Led to North Andover Explosion

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey.

The explosion last year at Rohm and Haas Electronic Materials, North Andover, was the result of a mechanical failure allowed air to react with a volatile chemical that resulted in spontaneous ignition and the explosion.

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, North Andover Fire Chief William McCarthy and North Andover Police Chief Charles Gray released their joint investigation into the Jan. 7, 2016 explosion this morning. Four employees were seriously injured. Three were transported to Boston hospitals and one was treated at a local hospital.

Workers had been experiencing a pressure problem in the reclaiming process that indicated a possible leak. They were attempting to troubleshoot the problem when the explosion occurred. The investigation showed this area was where the explosion originated. The explosion occurred when air came in contact with the chemical. A fire suppression system functioned and extinguished the fire. Closer examination showed the metal chemical vessels and waste traps contained several welds and gaskets that were not regularly inspected as a part of a safety process.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted a parallel and independent investigation into the workplace injuries. The agency found numerous safety violations and issued three citations with fines totaling $129,200. There was a previous chemical explosion at this facility that killed one employee in 2013. That incident occurred during work on a different chemical process.