A chemical spill that left one man seriously burned and shut down traffic in part of Niagara Falls last week is now being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Toxic vapors filled the inside of the Tier Environmental Services building at 33 S. Hyde Park Boulevard on Friday.
"It was a pentafluoride and it's very toxic and very corrosive," says Arthur J. Dube, Area Director for OSHA's Buffalo office, "It's kind of nasty stuff."
The vessel cleaning company is located close to the Robert Moses Parkway so emergency responders quickly shut down the nearby section of the parkway because of concerns the wind would spread the toxic fumes there. "The material is so caustic that when we attempted to grab a sample it actually melted the sampling device," said Chief William MacKay of the Niagara Falls Fire Department. Air samples tested clean within a few hours and the parkway was re-opened.
On Tuesday, OSHA investigators visited Tier Environmental Services to start piecing together how the spill happened and if proper steps were taken after the spill. "Most of the companies up here are pretty safe and until we investigate this... and we don't know what happened. Sometimes accidents are accidents but we don't know exactly what happened," says Dube.
An employee at Tier Environmental Services told Eyewitness News that the worker who was burned is recovering and his injuries are not a serious as they first feared. The employee referred Eyewitness News to the company's corporate headquarters in Gap, PA for further comment. Our calls to the headquarters had not been returned as of Tuesday evening.
OSHA says they have no record of any problems with this particular company. OSHA's investigation could take up to six months. "It depends on the complexity of what we run into," explains Dube, "Hopefully we don't run into too many problems and we can issue citations or not issue citations within a relatively short period of time."