Yesterday afternoon, a normal workday became a nightmare for employees at a Glenville asphalt plant. Workers at Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions were attempting to heat a valve with a blowtorch when the fumes ignited, causing an explosion that could be felt at the auto shop next door.
Liquid asphalt produces fumes that includes a mix of kerosene, diesel fuel, and tar. These fumes were in the air while the workers were attempting to transport liquid asphalt from a holding tank into a big rig for transport. The explosion seriously injured two workers. The two injured workers were transported to Westchester Medical Center and Albany Medical Center for severe third-degree burns.
The same day as the explosion, OSHA appeared onsite in order to begin an investigation that could take up to six months to complete. This will be their first inspection of the company’s site—although this is not the first run-in with OSHA in the company’s history.
Previous OSHA Citation
While the Glenville plant has never been inspected by OSHA before, Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions was cited by the agency for a serious safety violation in 2010. The resulting fine—$1,500—was for poor safety standards on a paving project. Once it was discovered that a blowtorch was used to heat the valve for an extremely volatile construction material, the local fire chief commented that he hoped blowtorch use was not a common practice for the company.
Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions is owned by the Gorman Group, the owners of the largest deep-water asphalt terminal on the East Coast. It also owns transportation facilities and engineering services alongside its asphalt emulsion facilities. This morning, the Gorman Group issued a brief statement expressing concern for their employees, but with no additional details regarding the incident.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured employees and their family.