Wacker’s chronic problem with contractors leads to one fatality

Wacker’s U.S. polysilicon plant in Charleston, Tennessee
Already in the past, contract workers were injured at Wacker’s U.S. polysilicon plant; on November 13, one died – Image: Wacker Chemie

Friday the 13th was not a good day for five contract workers at Wacker’s U.S. polysilicon plant in Charleston, Tennessee: They were injured when a mixture of steam and hydrochloric acid escaped during a maintenance operation and had to be taken to hospitals; one worker did not survive his injuries.

The accident happened on November 13 at 10:04 am. It is only cold comfort that the chemical release was quickly contained and did not impact the surrounding area.

The fatality is the sad culmination of a series of incidents that have occurred since the plant started up in early 2016:

  • July 24, 2020: Four contract workers suffer chemical burns during maintenance work on non-operating equipment in a process building.
  • May 4, 2019: A fire is discovered on the 4th Floor of the factory’s waste water treatment building; it has been distinguished nine hours later.
  • Sep. 7, 2017: Chlorosilanes escape from two leaks after a faulty piston has caused the explosion of a hydrogen compressor; 13 people are treated at hospitals.
  • Aug. 30, 2017: A release of chlorosilanes causes burns to five workers.
  • Oct. 3, 2016: A faulty gasket at one of the distillation columns is discovered; no chemical spill occurs.

As the latest accident is not the first one that has hit contract workers during maintenance, it raises the question why Wacker’s factory management engages people for tasks they have obviously not been trained for well enough. The fatality cries out for a revision of the company’s maintenance policy in Charleston.

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