Officials: 7 injured in Oxford chemical, ammunition plant explosion

Officials: 7 injured in Oxford chemical, ammunition plant explosion
The Olin Winchester plant (Source: WMC Action News 5)

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - Investigators are trying to determine what caused an explosion at a chemical and ammunition plant in Oxford Tuesday.

The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office confirms the explosion happened at about 1:30 p.m. at the Olin Winchester plant on County Road 101. Officials say it was an internal explosion that resulted in smoke filling the building, and Hazmat was not called to the scene.

The sheriff’s department also confirmed that neighbors and drivers in the area are not affected.

The Missouri-based company makes rifle and pistol ammunition as well as military ammunition packaging. A company spokesperson released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying seven employees are being treated for minor injuries.

The statement says the explosion happened in the production area of Winchester’s Rimfire operations.

“We appreciate the efforts of the first responders and our own staff who handled the situation,” reads the statement. "Winchester is reviewing the situation to determine the cause of the incident.

The sheriff’s department says three people were sent to Baptist Memorial Hospital - North Mississippi in non-critical condition. All three were treated and released. An emergency room doctor tells us the workers were all wearing safety gear, which likely prevented more serious injuries.

“Most of them were to the extremities and to the face,” said Dr. Thomas Smith. “They were all minor, like I said, a few abrasions, bumps and bruises, and then some superficial burns sustained from the explosions.”

We’re told Olin Winchester is conducting an independent investigation. The Olin Corporation was cited by the Department of Labor within the past six months after machine inspections at the Oxford plant.

Since 2013, the company has had six violations, with three deemed serious. According to reports by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Olin Winchester LLC was fined almost $27,000 in July after inspectors recorded serious violations at the plant.

Officials: 7 injured in Oxford chemical, ammunition plant explosion

Records show the company was cited for violations concerning "general requirements for all machines" as well as a "mechanical power-transmission apparatus" and "specifications for accident prevention signs and tags.”

The case status six months later still shows OSHA awaiting payment of those fines, totaling $26,838. An OSHA accident report from September 2017 shows an employee at Olin’s Winchester division had their left pinky finger amputated while operating a machine.

The report states the operator tried to free a jam in the machine when their finger was caught in a metal door. That case is closed with no further record available.

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