An official report into a fatal liquid nitrogen leak at Xytex Cryo International, a sperm bank in Augusta, Georgia, revealed that Airgas had failed to impose proper safety procedures.
Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens released findings that showed that Airgas failed to update the decal of a 3,000-gallon liquid nitrogen bulk storage tank, after a Xytex employee identified the system was leaking.
Airgas installed the tank in December 2016. After the leak was discovered, Airgas was notified and a USA service manager determined that the tank would require recalibration. However, Airgas USA failed to update the decal to the new pressure fill setting and consequently the system became over-pressurised and started leaking liquid nitrogen gas inside the building.
“This industrial gas leak may have been avoided if the proper servicing decal had been affixed to the bulk storage tank.”
Ralph Hudgens, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner
Xytex employee Anita Wylds and Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Greg Meagher both responded to an alarm at the facility located at 1100 Emmett Street. Shortly after entering the building Wylds fell unconscious and was severely injured from exposure to hypothermia hazards. Sergeant Meagher entered the building in search of Wylds but also collapsed moments later. He would later die from environmental suffocation.
Commissioner Hudgens said, “This industrial gas leak may have been avoided if the proper servicing decal had been affixed to the bulk storage tank.” He, continued, “Either an employee not following through with the proper procedures or a lack of communication between the two companies led to this tragic event.”
As a result of the incident at Xytex Cryo International, Commissioner Hudgens has ordered Airgas USA to pay the maximum penalty allowed by Georgia law of $5,000 for failure to report the incident to his office promptly.
Additionally, Hudgens is ordering Airgas USA to pay civil penalties totaling $297,500 for violation of Georgia’s Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Act. State inspectors discovered that in many instances, and over a period of several years, Airgas USA had failed to comply with state law requirements for inspection and reinspection of its bulk storage tanks.