Table of Contents
Introduction and disaster summary
On February 7th, 2008 in Georgia, fire and dust explosion occurred in Imperial Sugar Company that left 14 people killed and 40 injured and 14 other workers were sustaining threatening injuries. The explosion was caused by the combustive sugar dust that had accumulated in the company’s packaging section. According to the US the chemical safety board (CSB) the explosion was entirely inevitable. The disaster at the sugar refinery saw the company’s share drop to as much as 26 percent before it recovered later on (Vorderbrueggen, 2011).
The explosion occurred at around 7.15 p.m. local time in the conveyor belt section at the Imperial Sugar Company in Georgia. The incident left eight people dead on the spot in which four of them were trapped in between the collapsing floors and falling debris. Some of the workers who got caught had tried to enter the section in an attempt to rescue their co-workers.
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NGOs’ support and assistance
The Garden City Port Wentworth fire rescue team was the first to arrive at the scene to consume the fire in less than 10 minutes after the explosion. Other agencies that came to offer support include the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, George Search, and Rescue team and Chatham County Emergency Management Agency. The agencies joined efforts in conducting a search and rescue exercise that took several hours. The team cooperated with the other workers in doing the search and offering rescue efforts to the victims of the explosion. The rescue efforts continued alongside with the extinguishing of the fires for days, but they were consumed on February 15th in 2008.
Response and critique
The explosion resulted in the shutting down of the Imperial sugar company refinery in Louisiana for fear of the same disaster. This was followed the company getting a penalty of $3600 for violating safety regulations set by the Occupational safety and health Administration (OSHA). It retook a month after which OSHA sent a letter to over 30,000 workers to alert them to the danger of the combustible dust in fear of a similar disaster taking place. OSHA even proceeded to establish the Combustible Dust Fire Prevention Act of 2008 to help avert the disaster of dust and fire explosions (Recognizing static hazard is key to countering dust explosion danger, 2010).
The Imperial Sugar Company continued to pay over 300 of its workers in the Georgia Plant. Some of the workers were also used to assist in the cleaning process of the plant. The first confirmation of the company’s plan to rebuild the plant was done in April the same year. The project was intended to have the company’s operations resuming by the end of 2008.
The sugar company got blamed for not conducting evacuation drill among the workers who might have helped to avert the problem. The company had also failed to take effective actions in managing the combustible dust even after causing some smaller fires in the previous year according to CSB investigator John Vorderbrueggen.
Community recovery from the emergency
Around 19 workers who were victims of the incident got hospitalized at Joseph M. Still Burn Center (Anon, 2017). The victim faced long painful recovery periods as the doctors struggled to nurse the burns. The victims occupied almost half of the hospital’s intensive care unit rooms. The hospitalized workers also got permanent skin grafts from the Boston Laboratory which assisted healing the burns. The Imperial sugar comp nay alongside with other church groups offered donations to the families of both the deceased families and casualties in an attempt to help the member recover from the deadly inferno.
- Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http://www.csb.gov/assets/1/19/imperial_sugar_report_final_updated.pdf [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
- Recognising static hazard is key to countering dust explosion danger. (2010). Metal Powder Report, 65(3), pp.8-9.
- Vorderbrueggen, J. (2011). Imperial sugar refinery combustible dust explosion investigation. Process Safety Progress, p.n/a-n/a.