Mechanical Failure Caused Incident At WACKER Last September

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

TOSHA on Wednesday released its findings on the Sept. 7, 2017, incident at the WACKER-Charleston Polysilicon site that resulted in a temporary shutdown of the plant to make repairs. The release of both the Sept. 7, 2017 report and the Aug. 30, 2017 report, released last week, brings closure to the TOSHA investigations. The path to restart the Charleston facility will be in the near future. 

Mary Beth Hudson, vice president Polysilicon, Site Manager-Charleston, said, "We support TOSHA’s commitment to worker safety and WACKER continuously strives to identify improvements in plant safety. 

“We have been working with an outside independent expert over the last several months to analyze the origin and cause of the Sept. 7 incident as we prepare for the restart of facility operations. The independent team brought decades of global experience and has assisted in identifying key information related to the incident.

“We have learned that the Sept. 7 incident resulted from a mechanical failure with equipment in our hydrogen recovery building. A new piston, part of an upgraded compressor design purchased last year, fractured, resulting in the release of hydrogen that ignited. To restart the plant, we will be returning to our original compressor design that has operated safely for decades at WACKER sites and many other global companies. We are confident that a return to the original compressor design together with the adoption of other preventative measures will ensure a safe restart of our Charleston plant.

“WACKER has discussed both the mechanical compressor failure and the new steps taken to address this type of problem going forward as part of our cooperation with TOSHA during their reviews.

"At WACKER, we are continually working to ensure the safety of our site, our team members, our community, and our environment. We are committed to providing safe and secure jobs in our community."

During the six months since the Sept. 7 incident, not one team member has been laid off or terminated because of the plant shut-down. WACKER team members have reported to work every day since then to help with the rebuild, receive additional training, perform maintenance, and prepare the plant for the restart.

Ms. Hudson praised employees’ patience and perseverance. She said, “Since the incident last September, our entire workforce has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to supporting the investigation and restoration effort. We are grateful and proud of our team, particularly for their dedication and hard work.” 

WACKER shares TOSHA’s concern for workers and fully cooperated during their investigation, said officials.

Ms. Hudson said, “Safety is our number one value and priority. We are constantly working to ensure the safety of our site, our team members, our community, and our environment as we move toward restarting production at the site.”

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