US: DEADLY THIOKOL EXPLOSION REMEMBERED

February 3 marked the 53rd anniversary of the catastrophic 1971 explosion that occurred at the Thiokol Chemical Corporation Plant in Woodbine, Georgia, resulting in the deaths of 29 workers and injuries to over 50 others.

Most of those who lost their lives were Women of African American background, employed by Thiokol to make trip flares for the U.S. Army's use in the Vietnam War. Despite the relatively higher wages offered by Thiokol, the explosion highlighted the risks associated with weak labour standards, insufficient safety regulations, and flaws in the US’s then Southern economic development model.

The explosion was caused by a fire in Building M-132, where ignition chemicals were added to other substances for making ignition pellets. This fire quickly escalated, leading to one of the worst industrial disasters in US history. The blast shattered windows miles away, and the explosion was felt and heard for a considerable distance.

During the incident, workers were able to exit the building but were unaware of the potential for a massive explosion and failed to evacuate the area.

The explosion resulted in the deaths, dismemberment, or injury of dozens of employees.

Investigations revealed misclassification of flare components, improper storage practices, and inadequate fire protection systems as contributing factors to the catastrophe.

The Thiokol explosion serves as a sombre reminder of the human cost associated with lax safety measures in industrial settings and underscores the necessity for stringent regulations and oversight to prevent future recurrences

Source: Confined Space, Feb 9

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