An explosion that rocked a New Hampshire factory this week, sending 15 workers to the hospital, apparently occurred while the workers were cleaning their balls in an acid room. The accident, which blew out most of the first floor windows and closed the factory for two days, was apparently the result of the use of nitric acid, which is an oxidizing agent commonly used in manufacturing processes and ball cleaning.
I suppose I should mention that the factory was the New Hampshire Ball Bearings plant. That probably clears up a few things for you.
Let's face it; this is a post that practically writes itself.
While this is a story of people injured while prepping balls in a ball bearing plant, not to be confused with a plant that bears balls, although in essence I suppose that is what a ball bearing plant does, it is more a story of miraculous survival. There were an estimated 450 workers in the plant at the time of the explosion. Nitric oxide can be an extremely explosive substance; in fact it is a whack job ingredient of choice for the making of bombs and other weapons of terror. Ironically, the makers of those bombs often surround the explosive material with metal parts to compound and increase the injurious nature of the bomb. Those metal parts have been known to include ball bearings.
So, we have an explosion in a plant occupied by 450 people, surrounded with ideal projectile material. It is amazing that no one got killed.
The ball bearing plant that bears balls is located in Peterborough, NH. (Is it just me, or does this post just continue writing potential one-liners?)
The company, to its credit, appears to be responding in a responsible fashion to the incident. NHBB President Gary Yomantas, said that all employees who missed work due to the plant shutdown or limited operations will be paid their normal base wages. They have also set up an employee assistance center at a separate training facility to assist employees and provide counselors.
Fire Chief Joe Lenox credited the company's regular evacuation drills and employee's quick and orderly response as key factors in minimizing injuries.
Most impressive was a comment Yomantas made in a letter to employees on their website, which indicated they were grateful there were not more injuries, and that “two of our employees were seriously injured and are still in the hospital. We have been in contact with their families [emphasis added] to offer our full support. Our hearts go out to them during this difficult time.”
In contact with their families: what a radically admirable notion! Why didn't I think of that? Oh, wait. I did.
So we find in our exploding ball bearing factory that is a bearer of balls a lesson for all. Preparation, safety awareness and training can make a difference. And despite the best laid plans, any workplace incident can literally be a ball buster.