Chemical Reaction Injures 7 Workers

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 @ 01:08 PM gHale


Employees ended up at the hospital after a chemical reaction forced evacuations at the Smithfield Packing Plant in Tar Heel, NC, Monday.

The reaction happened between sodium hypochlorite and acid during a cleaning process at around 3:30 a.m., said Bladen County Emergency Services spokesman Bradley Kinlaw.

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“When they got mixed together, it created a vapor cloud within the building,” Kinlaw said. “It was pretty much contained in one area of the building.”

The chemical ended up contained inside the building, Kinlaw said. All employees evacuated the building. Several nearby homes also evacuated just as a precaution, officials said.

Seven employees went to area hospitals suffering from minor injuries.

Emergency crews worked to ventilate the building before employees were able to come back inside around 8:15 a.m.

The N.C. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division is investigating the incident, said spokesperson Dolores Quesenberry.

The accident was at least the third at the plant in a little over two years.

In June 2014, an ammonia spill injured eight people and forced thousands of workers out of the facility. Another ammonia leak in October forced evacuation of the plant.

In August 2013, the Department of Labor fined the plant $44,100 for violations following two occupational safety and health inspections.