An analysis of factors leading to the occurrence of hazardous materials incidents occurring in Massachusetts, USA, was performed. Incident reports of the State of Massachusetts' six district hazmat teams up to May 1996 were reviewed to determine the site or type of facility involved, chemicals or agents encountered, the mechanisms causing the release, and injuries sustained by civilians, firefighters, and hazmat technicians involved in the incidents. The six hazmat teams served the greater Boston area, Natick, Lowell, Bourne, Chicopee, and Pittsfield and were formed between June 1990 and September 1991. The hazmat teams responded to 165 incidents during the study period. Data on the causes of the incidents, types of facilities involved, general types of chemicals released, and the proportion of incidents resulting in injury were presented. Spills including leaks and escapes of hazardous materials were the most frequently occurring type of incident, accounting for 76% of the total. Vehicle accidents, with or without a spill and fires, accounted for 31 and 17% of the total incidents, respectively. Most (80%) of the incidents occurred at fixed facilities. By facility or site, transportation related spills and accidents at industrial, commercial, health care (hospital), and residential sites occurred most frequently, accounting for 20, 12, 10, 6, and 6% of the total, respectively. Oil or petroleum derived fuel spills occurred in almost half of the transportation related incidents. Chlorine derivatives and gasoline spills occurred frequently in multiple transportation related accidents. Most of the accidents in hospitals involved ethylene-oxide (75218). Forty six (29%) of all incidents involved injury. By site, the largest proportion of incidents resulting in injury (67%) occurred at waste treatment facilities. Only 6% of all incidents, however, occurred at a waste treatment facility. The authors conclude that data of these type should be of assistance in identifying preventable causes of hazardous materials incidents.
Stefanos N. Kales, MD, MPH, Occupational Medicine, Department of Medicine, The Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Occupational Medicine, Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts