10 Hurt in Ice Cream Facility Hazmat Unloading Explosion

Posted on 7/24/2021 by Lauren Scott and Roseanne Bottone

Ten employees are recovering after sustaining injuries related to a liquid nitrogen explosion at a Kentucky ice cream facility last week, on July 21. The incident occurred as a truck was unloading the chemical into a storage tank at the facility. The cause of the explosion is currently under investigation.

Nine workers were released from local hospitals the day after the explosion, with one still undergoing medical care. The company is currently working with local, State, and Federal officials to provide a complete investigation on the blast.

Although the facility is owned by a nationwide ice cream chain, the site at which the incident occurred typically makes ingredients for a third-party company. The facility uses liquid nitrogen to flash freeze ice cream products. Production is expected to resume at the plant soon.

How Liquid Nitrogen Explodes

When liquid nitrogen vaporizes, it expands by a factor of nearly 700. That means 1 liter of liquid nitrogen will expand to fill nearly 25 cubic feet with nitrogen gas. This expansion can cause a sealed container to explode. The nitrogen gas also displaces oxygen and can cause suffocation.

Fourteen people died from asphyxiation in liquid nitrogen related incidents between 2012 and 2020. The Kentucky ice cream facility incident follows a tragic liquid nitrogen leak in an Atlanta-area food processing plant earlier this year that killed six employees.

Hazmat Transportation Includes Unloading

Incidents during loading and unloading are not uncommon. In 2016, a cloud of chlorine gas floated through a Kansas community after an incident that occurred during unloading of sulfuric acid at a local grain processing facility.

US DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) require hazmat training for any employee who can directly affect the safe transportation of hazardous materials. The cycle of transportation begins with loading the hazmat, including its movement and storage incidental to movement, and ends after the hazmat has been unloaded at its destination.   

A person who unloads a truck of a Division 2.2 compressed gas like Nitrogen, refrigerated liquid (UN 1977) performs a regulated activity and must receive general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training to do the job properly.  In addition, the unloader must receive hazmat safety training to be aware of the material’s hazards, know how to protect themselves, and to be prepared to handle accidents and emergencies (see 49 CFR 172.704(a)(1)—(5).

Prevent Transportation Incidents with Effective Hazmat Training

Training is not just a good management practice; it’s a legally mandated requirement.

Safety concerns are the primary reason for providing thorough and effective hazmat training. The failure to do so can result in hefty fines just for the training violation. Currently, the minimum civil penalty for a training violation is $508 per employee, per day of the deficiency.

Bring a Lion instructor to your site to present required hazmat training for your shipping team! Get answers to your site’s unique questions and focus on the materials, situations, and job responsibilities you deal with every day.

Request a quote for your group.  

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat unloading, liquid nitrogen, UN 1977

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