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May 08. 2014 11:47PM

NHBB employees injured in Peterborough plant explosion recovering at home

PETERBOROUGH — In a letter to employees this week, New Hampshire Ball Bearings said a chemical reaction involving nitric acid caused the Feb. 10 explosion that hospitalized two employees.

“We have determined that a chemical reaction occurred when nitric acid from a non-production process was transferred to a 55 gallon drum containing an acidic waste mixture. The acids in question are commonly used in industry for surface treatment and testing of metals,” NHBB President and CEO Gary C. Yomantas wrote. “Most devastating to us is that 22 people were injured in the blast, two very seriously. There was damage to the building and some loss of production. Our business will endure, although clearly the physical and psychological effects of this event will be felt for some time to come. Since the evening of February 10th, we have been working with the Fire Marshal’s office, OSHA, and independent experts to determine the cause of the blast.”

Yomantas is based at the company’s Chatsworth, Calif., headquarters.

Two days after the explosion the state Fire Marshal’s office said, “As a result of the on-scene investigation and examination, this incident continues to be classified as an industrial accident. The explosion has been determined to be directly related to a nitric acid reaction. Nitric acid is an oxidizing agent and is commonly used in industrial processes.”

Final reports from the Fire Marshal’s office and OSHA are pending.

On Thursday, Rose Ohar, the Concord area director for OSHA, said the OSHA investigation is several weeks away from concluding and issuing a report.

Hans Baker, a NHBB spokesperson in Peterborough, said Thursday that the letter is a communication with employees and the community to update them on the company’s investigation, a reassurance of its commitment to safety and a thank-you to employees.

“It’s an unprecedented event for us,” Baker said.

In the letter Yomantas said, “NHBB takes our responsibility to provide a safe work environment very seriously and has invested millions of dollars in the infrastructure meant to safeguard our employees and our business. We are evaluating our policies, procedures, training, and organizational structure not only regarding chemical handling, but all other areas of our company, in all of our facilities, as well. We are confident that we are taking the necessary steps to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Baker said the two employees who were seriously injured are recovering at home.

“They had been released, they spent a little bit of time in a rehabilitation center and they were sent home and they have been recovering at home,” Baker said, saying they are expected to return to work at some point. “We really are glad they are home resting and recovering, and we look forward to their full recovery, and we wish them the best.”

mpierce@newstote.com



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