Essex County

‘Avoidable disaster’: Local lawmakers demand answers following explosion at Newburyport facility

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Local lawmakers are sounding off on a pharmaceutical company with a history of safety violations after an explosion at one of their facilities in Newburyport on Thursday morning.

The explosion killed one worker and injured four others.

The facility is owned by Seqens North America, which specializes in contract manufacturing services as well as pharmaceutical synthesis and specialty ingredients for the medical device industry, according to their website.

However, the company was repeatedly fined by federal regulators for safety failures at the site in 2015, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Now, Congressman Seth Moulton, Senators Ed Markey, and Elizabeth Warren say they’ve seen enough.

“This explosion is only the latest avoidable disaster at this facility, following years of serious safety violations, multiple fines, and other explosions,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Seqens. “This is an unacceptable and tragic outcome — every worker is entitled to a safe workplace and the knowledge that they will return home unharmed after a shift at work.”

The letter states that over the past three years alone, two incidents at the Newburyport facility resulted in “serious” OSHA violations.

“It is now painfully apparent that your company has failed to create any meaningful or effective safety culture,” they wrote.

As a result of the latest tragedy, Congressman Moulton and Senators Markey and Warren are calling on Seqen to answer a list of questions in writing by May 9.

The questions are as follows:

  1. To the best of your current understanding, please detail the timeline and cause of the explosion on May 4, 2023, including identifying the systems and chemicals involved in the explosion.
  2. Did Seqens personnel or anyone else knowledgeable about the chemicals that may have been present in the facility and dispersed by the explosion alert the first responders about those chemicals?

Other questions include explanations for the four previously mentioned safety failures from 2015 to 2021 and what, if any, steps were taken to remediate the hazards and protect the health and safety of its workers.

“Newburyport and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deserve to understand how this history of repeated OSHA violations could have led to tragedy,” the lawmakers said.

Boston 25 News reached out to Seqens for a response and has not yet received an answer.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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