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New York Senator Pushes for OSHA Alert System In Wake of Deadly Verla International Cosmetics Plant Explosion


More than a month after two explosions at the Verla International cosmetics plant in New Windsor, New York, tragically killed one worker and sent more than 100 people to the hospital, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing for a system that would allow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to alert local officials when industrial plants are cited for serious violations that involve dangerous materials.

“Should OSHA have to notify people if there are mouse droppings? No,” Schumer said during a January 5th news conference at New Windsor Town Hall. “But when it comes to flammable, combustible materials, there ought to be notification. Local governments and first responders must know ‎where there are hazards, so they can prepare and train for potential emergency situations.”

Static Electricity Ignited Verla Plant Explosion

The first of two explosions rocked the Verla International cosmetics factory around 10:15 a.m. on November 20th. The initial explosion was followed by a second blast around 10:40 a.m.

Investigators have determined that the first explosion was ignited after static electricity came into contact with a combustible chemical called hexamethyldisiloxane, or HMDZ.

“One of the workers had been on the scene and there was product on the table and he was using a rag to wipe the product and that, through a static electric charge, ignited the vapors in the room and caused the fire,” Orange County Fire Coordinator Vini Tankasali told reporters during a November 29th news conference.

Verla Plant Explosion Tragically Kills Long-Time Employee

William Huntington, 57, of Newburgh, was reported missing after the explosion. The remains of the long-time Verla International employee were discovered later that evening.

At least 125 people sought treatment at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, mostly for non-life-threatening injuries.

Seven City of Newburgh firefighters were injured in the second explosion, including two who sustained burns.

OSHA Previously Cited Verla International for Failure to Properly Store Volatile Chemicals

OSHA records indicate that the Verla International plant was cited for 19 violations between 2013 and 2016, including 13 that were designated “serious”.

Among other things, the plant was cited in November 2016 for failing to properly store and ground both flammable-liquid containers and their pouring nozzles to prevent dangerous sparks.

Proposed Notification System Would Alert Local Authorities to OSHA Safety Violations

According to the Times-Herald-Record, firefighters who responded to the incident have complained that they lacked information on Verla International’s safety record.

During his January 5th news conference, Schumer proposed a notification system and an easily searchable database to alert local government officials, fire departments, first responders and public utility administrators of any OSHA violations that involve combustible or volatile materials.

The Senator indicated that OSHA administrator nominee Scott Mugno and U.S. Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta were open to the idea.

City of Newburgh Fire Department Lt. Luqman Muhammad, whose ankle was broken in the incident, and several other firefighters, attended the news conference to voice support for Schumer’s proposal.

“We didn’t see it coming,” Muhammad said of the explosion. “It blew, and next thing you knew we were face down on the pavement. … We had no idea what we were walking into.”

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Our Undefeated Plant Explosion Lawyers continue to investigate the Verla International explosion and will post additional updates as more information becomes available.

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