Explosion chez Zanussi en Italie

Le 12 novembre 2001 le fabricant de réfrigérateur Electrolux a subi de sérieux dommages et causé 8 bléssés dont 3 graves lors de l’explosion d’isobutane dans l’usine de fabrication.

Compte rendu en Anglais

For 3 female employees, who underwent very heavy fire injuries, the prognoses are still uncertain; further five persons were hurt by an explosion, which occurred this Monday morning at the company ELECTROLUX Zanussi in Susegana near Treviso. The explosion was caused by gases, which are used for the production of refrigerators in this company. The Cgil (Confederazione generale italiana del lavoro ) indicates, that in spite of the traces of withdrawn gas, which were noticed and had been indicated by the female employees, when entering the hall in which production line 3 is located, these employees were nevertheless instructed to take up their work. Immediately after that it came to the explosion. The whole factory with approximately 2000 employees was evacuated.
The employees, for whom only uncertain prognoses can be provided, are Eleonora Battelli, Linda Sossai and Luisa Ciampi, who has received the heaviest injuries. They all are between 30 and 40 years old. 5 other employees, one woman and 4 men, were brought to hospital.
For fighting the flames, which blazed up in the 1 meter deep pit, in which normally weldings are carried out, eight people of the fire brigade of the factory were in action, by the way in that factory, where, according to statements of Cgil, exactly as at today’s Monday morning, also in other halls of the factory, already in the previous week indications of withdrawn gases were given. Further the public fire-brigades and the Carabinieri were in action.

The explosion
When the incident occurred, the early shift had just begun. The explosion and the up-blazing flames were so strong that the lockers of the employees were torn apart and fell on these. As the cause of it, it was stated immediately, that the hall was full of Isobutane gas, which is considered as the most environmental friendly refrigerant, nevertheless it is highly inflammable.
In the hall normally compressors for refrigerators are welded. And so the Isobutane exploded (which is a smell- and colour-less gas, that however leaves humidity traces) with which the surrounding field was saturated, as soon as one of the employees begun with its normal weldings, with a torch in the pit, as it is intended for this kind of work. First investigations established also, that the gas which is heavier than air, had filled up the hall up to a height of 1 meter. When the employee switched on its cutting torch, everything exploded.
The 3 most heavily injured female employees were affected first by the shock wave and by the flames, which resulted from the reaction. The other 5 colleagues threw themselves immediately over the 3 women, in order to extinguish the flames with their own bodies.
The accusation of Cgil
A few hours after the incident, the leader of Fiom (Federazione impiegati operai metallurgici ), Andrea Castagna (responsible person of Cgil for the enterprise ZANUSSI), made the following statement, after discussions with union representatives for safety questions: « It has already given different other gas leakages in the past week and this morning. Other production lines were closed, e.g. line 6. But for production line 3, somebody had, we do not know who yet, given the instruction to continue with the work, even if on the soil humidity traces were fount, as it is typical for withdrawn Isobutane gas ».
Additionally to its statement there is the statement of another trade unionist, Augustin Breda, from the national management of the Fiom-Cgil, who was until a few month ago employee at the same production line, where the explosion occurred. Breda has reported to the Ansa , after consulting the colleagues, that at the time of the incident a maintenance crew was in action, in order to determine the origin of the withdrawing gas. But nonetheless, the persons responsible for manufacturing have decided, the work in that area has to be taken up.
Breda explained: « This is an extremely heavy carelessness and an injury of company internal standards. It had already for some time become usual practice, if indications for irregularities were given, to begin the problem search, without interrupting the production process. « In last July – Breda said also – one of the today’s heavily injured woman has had lively discussion because of that a with the management ».