On December 26, 2012, an explosion at a leading flavor and fragrance company, Givaudan Flavors Corp., shook nearby businesses and scattered debris throughout the plant grounds. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. The explosion occurred in Florence, Kentucky when a silo was being filled by a semi-truck. That silo was heavily damaged and there was minor damage to the silo next to it, however, no other damages to the facility were noted.

This is the second time within a year that fire departments have responded to explosion reports at this manufacturing facility. The previous incident occurred in February 2012 when the same silo was being filled. News reports indicated that employees were filling the silo with chemicals when it over-pressurized and caused an explosion that again shook businesses nearby. One witness said that two or three times a year, he hears a big “boom” at the facility and then watches as fire departments arrive.

Givaudan Flavors, headquartered in Vernier, Switzerland, is a leading manufacturer in the fragrance and flavor industry. It operates in over 40 countries and employs more than 8,000 worldwide. Two incidents at the same facility within 10 months, in the same silo, begs the question, “When is it time to examine fire safety procedures?” Givaudan Flavors has been fortunate that in neither incident, no one was injured.

Serious fire or explosion incidents do happen, even at manufacturing facilities where accident prevention is taken seriously and incorporated well into daily plant life. Prevention efforts are never 100% fool-proof.  Serious fire or explosion incidents at any given facility are usually rare. When they do happen, it is critically important that a thorough and honest evaluation be conducted to identify the key contributing factors and extract as much learning from the failure as possible. But the evaluation is only half of it.  Corrective measures designed to neutralize the key contributing factors must actually be implemented, even if the expense is significant. Failure to do so will set the stage for a repeat of the same failure.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.