NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Two engineers die after an explosion occurred at an explosive test facility.

Public Health Institute
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 94CA015, 1995 Jun; :1-4
A 51-year-old white, non-Hispanic, male engineer (victim #1) and a 53-year-old white, non-Hispanic, male engineer (victim #2) died when an explosion occurred while they were at work testing chemical compounds. Both of these victims were pyrotechnic experts. A third worker was also hospitalized with second and third degree burns. The three workers were testing chemical compounds in order to enhance the ignition of solid and liquid propellants in rocket engines. At the time of the incident, the ambient temperature was 81 degrees F. and the relative humidity was 17%. The ignition procedure involved putting sawdust on a flat metal sheet, followed by a layer of glycidylazide polymer, and finally a layer of nitrocellulose. The sheet was surrounded by metal shields. An electric match and a small pouch of black powder were used to ignite the substance once everyone was safely out of the area. Two tests had been conducted that morning and a third test was being set up when the explosion occurred. According to co-workers, the chemicals were in place and one of the victims was about to, or was, adding more nitrocellulose to the mixture when a loud explosion occurred. They ran to the site of the explosion and found both victims with obviously fatal injuries. The third worker was found lying approximately 10 feet from the blast site. The CA/FACE investigator concluded that in order to prevent similar future occurrences, employers should: 1. establish, implement and maintain an effective, written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), specifically referencing safety training procedures for all new tasks and and how inspections should be conducted to identify and evaluate hazards with regard to any new tasks. 2. prohibit employees from processing or blending static sensitive explosives in less than 20 percent relative humidity. 3. not allow the processing, blending and/or mixing of explosive materials in an area immediately adjacent to a test stand which had been used during a previous test. 4. ensure that employees working with highly ignitable materials and their equipment are properly grounded.
Region-9; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Training; Chemical-burns; Chemical-composition; Chemical-hypersensitivity; Chemical-industry-workers; Chemical-properties; Chemical-reactions; Chemical-synthesis; Engineering; Explosions; Explosives
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-94CA015; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-907284
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Public Health Institute
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division