One Hurt in Small Chemical Explosion

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 @ 05:04 PM gHale

A worker mixing chemicals led to a small chemical explosion leaving one person injured and streets shut down around Winston-Salem, NC, city hall for several hours Monday morning.

Winston-Salem police, firefighters and EMS personnel responded to a call of an explosion at 200 East First St., part of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, around 10 a.m. Monday.

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A small explosion in a fume hood in a fourth-floor lab injured a person conducting a routine experiment.

The injured worker ended up shielded from the explosion by the hood’s screen but suffered minor injuries to the hands, said Eric Tomlinson, president of the Innovation Quarter. The worker ended up transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center by EMS.

First Street shut down for several hours while hazardous materials team assessed the scene. A. T. Byrum, assistant fire chief, said there was no additional danger to surrounding buildings and there was no danger of chemical spread or building collapse. A decontamination unit ended up set up in the street to treat fire department personnel after they exited the building.

In all, six people underwent assessment at the scene, including the worker sent to hospital.

The injured person was working for Asinex, a company that makes substances used by the pharmaceutical industry. Byrum said the employee was mixing sodium azide with a trade chemical, a routine procedure.

“It’s a normal reaction, that for some reason this time it went awry,” Tomlinson said.

Asinex is one of two companies that rent space in the building. Two Wake Forest Baptist Health departments also reside here. Tomlinson said 114 people were working in the building at the time of the explosion. The building evacuated and all employees were accounted for, Tomlinson said.

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