Hawaii Blames Working Conditions for Fireworks Storage Blast

October 4, 2011

Hawaii labor officials are blaming what they termed “unsafe working conditions” for an explosion that killed five men at a fireworks storage bunker earlier this year.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said in a report released Friday that it was seeking fines of $415,000 from Donaldson Enterprises Inc. for the blast in April.

Investigators said the explosion happened as the workers were taking apart commercial grade fireworks within the bunker. The blast was so powerful that it scorched trees 40 feet away.

“We have concluded that there were so many unsafe working conditions and work practices that could have caused the explosion. To continue efforts to find a single cause would neither be productive nor serve our mission of assuring safe and healthful working conditions for every working person in the state,” Jennifer Shishido, administrator with the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division, said in a statement.

Investigators concluded that the company failed to provide a “hazard assessment on the dangers of disassembling pyrotechnic materials” and failed to store flammable liquids away from exits.

Donaldson Enterprises had a contract with a federal agency to destroy illegal fireworks that had been confiscated, Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig said shortly after the blast. The bunker it leased housed large aerial fireworks of the kind often used in public displays on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Day and other occasions, he said.

Though state labor officials have finished their investigation, other agencies – including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – are waiting for laboratory tests and other tests results to come back.

A call to Donaldson Enterprises from The Associated Press on Saturday seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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