The state has identified eleven safety violations that could have caused the April 8 fatal explosion at a fireworks storage bunker and recommended fines of $415,000 against the company involved, Donaldson Enterprises.
The explosion killed five Donaldson employees who were taking apart commercial grade cake-style fireworks inside a bunker at the Waikele Self Storage facility.
Jennifer Shishido, head of the state’s occupational safety and health office, said in a press release this afternoon that an investigation “identified eleven potential causes for the explosion, each of which carries a penalty for violating health and safety laws.”
No single cause of the blast was identified, said Shishido.
“We have concluded that there were so many unsafe working conditions and work practices that could have caused the explosion. To continue efforts to find a single cause would neither be productive nor serve our mission of assuring safe and healthful working conditions for every working person in the State,” said Shishido.
Donaldson has the opportunity to dispute the findings and fines.
Shishido said the violations included:
- Failure to conduct a hazard assessment on the dangers of disassembling pyrotechnic materials which may have become more shock, heat, and friction sensitive due to unknown compounds within the pyrotechnic formulation, and uncontrolled environmental conditions within the bunker such as excessive heat and humidity.
- Failure to use bonding, grounding, and anti-static materials to control the potential of ignition by static electricity.
- Failure to ensure that supervisors properly reinforced the training of employees in the danger of using metal tools, work practices that may create friction, and other sources of ignition while working with pyrotechnic contents that are sensitive to heat, shock, and friction.
- Failure to provide at least two exit routes were not available to permit prompt evacuation of employees during an emergency.
- Failure to store flammable liquids away from exits or areas normally used for the safe egress of people.
- Failure to separate the work involving pyrotechnic materials from other explosives within the bunker.
- Failure to provide non-ferrous, non-sparking tools while working with explosive pyrotechnic materials.
- Failure to control the presence of combustible materials such as empty packing materials and rubbish in an area where pyrotechnic materials were being separated and maintained.
- Failure to prohibit spark producing devices, i.e. employees’ cars, within 50 feet of the bunker entrance where pyrotechnic materials were being disassembled and maintained.
- Failure to erect appropriate warning signs on access roads leading to the bunker where pyrotechnic materials were present and being disassembled.
- Failure to conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate personal protective equipment to be worn by employees while performing work with explosive pyrotechnic materials.
- Failure to require employees to don appropriate personal protective equipment
Other agencies that are still investigating the explosion include the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Health Response Team.
State Labor Department director Dwight Takamine, who oversees occupational safety and health issues, said, “While our thoughts remain with the families of the five men lost in this tragedy, we urge all employers who work with or may work with pyrotechnic materials to take appropriate actions to prevent any similar incident.”