BASF looking into what caused injuries to 4 contractors

BASF health and safety personnel will conduct a root-cause analysis to determine what led to the injury of four contractors doing routine maintenance Monday at the company’s Ascension Parish plant, officials said Tuesday.

The workers, certified electricians employed by Turner Industries, received first- and second-degree burns that were not life-threatening after an “electrical incident” about 11 a.m. Monday, said Jolen Stein, spokeswoman for the BASF chemical facility on La. 30 in Geismar.

Stein said three of the workers were treated as outpatients at Baton Rouge General Medical Center and released Monday. The fourth was held at the hospital overnight for observation due to the burns and pre-existing conditions, she said.

That man was expected to be released Tuesday, she said.

Stein did not identify the workers.

She said the electricians were working on the plant’s power distribution system, which is not part of any specific unit but serves the entire 700-acre complex on the Mississippi River.

Stein said the incident led to “some operational disruption” but the facility was back in operation Tuesday.

She said the incident did not lead to any chemical leaks or releases.

Stein said the root-cause analysis would help to determine if the incident is reportable to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and to prevent a future such incident from happening.

“We care about our employees and our communities, and we are committed to operating facilities in a safe and environmentally responsible fashion,” Stein said in a prepared statement.

Diana Petterson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor, offered limited information Tuesday about whether the incident might prompt an OSHA inquiry.

“OSHA is aware of incident and is gathering information to determine if an investigation is warranted,” Petterson said Tuesday.

OSHA, a federal workplace safety regulator, is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The BASF plant is situated on a 2,640-acre site, most of which is not developed.

The plant is the largest manufacturing facility for the BASF Corp., one of the parish’s largest employers and is a significant part of its property tax base.