June 19, 2005

Houston: Man Dies After Accident At Baytown Chemical Plant

Internal, External Investigations Underway

A man who had worked as a contractor at Bayer's Baytown chemical plant since 1989 died following an accident at the plant Saturday morning. Specific details of the accident were not known Sunday but external and internal investigations to determine the cause were getting under way, Bayer spokeswoman Cherie Laughlin said.

"There was no fire or explosion," she said. "It was an accident with a single employee." The employee, Salvador Barba, 57, was injured and later died. He worked as a maintenance mechanic and was doing routine work in the plant's plastics manufacturing area, Laughlin said. Laughlin said Barba worked for KBR for two decades and been at the industrial park since 1989.

KBR spokeswoman Jennifer Dellinger confirmed Barba worked for the company, which she said was deeply saddened by the "sudden and tragic loss." Counselors arrived at the plant Saturday and continued to assist Barba's colleagues on Sunday, Dellinger said in an e-mail, adding that employee safety is KBR's top priority.

Raw materials used in the automotive and construction industries are produced at the facility, which is located 30 miles east of Houston and has 2,000 employees.
The company describes the plant, located on 1,500 acres, as the flagship of its U.S. chemical operations.

The Baytown Sun reported Sunday that on Feb. 13, 2004, an explosion and fire occurred during the restarting of the reactor in the part of the Bayer plant that manufactures toluene diamine. No one was injured last year but the blast could be heard miles away. Bayer officials determined the explosion resulted from an over-concentration of feedstock chemicals in the reactor.

The Sentinel, 06/30/2005

Feds launch investigation at Bayer

According to Kellogg Brown and Root officials, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is still investigating what caused a chemical leak at Bayer Industrial Park June 18 in Baytown.

"As far as we know, there is still an ongoing investigation," Jennifer W. Dellinger, a KBR spokesperson, said. "We have no updates."

The leak resulted in the death of KBR employee Salvador Barba, 57, who was laid to rest in an emotional funeral service June 23 at Cedarcrest Cemetery where hundreds of people paid their final respects.

Barba, who was a resident of Beach City, was an employee at Bayer Industrial Park for 24 years. KBR reported Barba, a maintenance technician, succumbed to a chemical known as phenol, which he inhaled in large quantities as he was performing his morning duties.

During an all-day rosary June 22 at Navarre Funeral Home, Bayer Industrial Park workers congregated outside, one Spanish-speaking man said to a group of five men and one woman, "You need to make sure you check everything you're doing so this doesn't happen to someone else."

The man, who spoke freely as mourners entered the building, did not want to be identified.

"KBR's top priority is the safety and security of all employees," KBR said in an official statement. "An investigation currently is ongoing and KBR continues to cooperate with authorities regarding this investigation."

Dellinger said, "It's a very somber situation at our site right now. It's a very troubling time."

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Web site, phenol is a manufactured substance that is a colorless-to-white solid when pure. The Web site also explains the commercial product is a liquid and it has a "sickeningly sweet and tarry odor."

It is also used in the manufacture of nylon and other synthetic fibers and slimicides (chemicals that kill bacteria and fungi in slimes).

Barba, who three weeks prior to his death had celebrated his birthday, was born in Progreso, located in the Rio Grande Valley. (By Albert Villegas )