CSB Preliminary Report on West Explosion
May 5, 2014
The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its preliminary findings on the April 2013 West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. A fire at the West Fertilizer plant caused a large amount of ammonium nitrate to explode, killing 14 people, injuring over 200, and causing extensive damage to the town.
The CSB states the safety issues and lessons learned from ammonium nitrate explosions have not been effectively communicated to the fire service and other emergency responders who may encounter such incidents. The CSB remarks that verbiage about ammonium nitrate events in the National Fire Protection Association codes and the Emergency Response Guidebook are vague and indistinct.
The investigation found a lack of proper codes to be a major cause of the severity of the incident. The supervisory investigator stated “The CSB found at all levels of government a failure to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities.” They also found a lack of fire codes at the state level and a lack of a county emergency response plan for West Fertilizer to be contributing factors.
As the CSB continues the investigation, they also commended The Fertilizer Institute for the creation of ResponsibleAg, an auditing and outreach program for fertilizer retailers. Still under development, ResponsibleAg will also give recommendations for first responders regarding fires involving fertilizer chemicals.