No one wants to put the phone in Cristian Lay, the owner group of Chemical Industries of Ethylene Oxide (IQOXE) located in La Canonja (Tarragona), this Tuesday exploded, causing three deaths and seven wounded. With headquarters in Jerez de los Caballeros (Badajoz), the holding company that owns the chemical plant is an empire that the entrepreneur Ricardo Leal started with a jewelry store in 1981. “Always with the vision of bringing their products to other regions of Spain and, then, to the world,” according to the corporate presentation, Cristian Lay has been growing and diversifying its offer to business beauty, home automation, travel agent, plastics, packaging and chemical industry to become a conglomerate of firms with 1,800 employees turnover 400 million euros and it is present in 22 countries. Is defined as a group of "persons clear" that value "the clarity of thought and action, only this way can we build mutual trust".
Chemical Industries of Ethylene Oxide, which has opened an investigation into what happened, is one of the jewels of the corporation, with a turnover of 148 million euros and a profit of 18.2 million in its recent statements of accounts (2018). The company was formed in march 2014 after Ricardo Leal submit a bid for that plant, the property of La Seda de Barcelona put for sale by court number 1 of Barcelona in charge of your bankruptcy. Its ceo, José Luis Morlanes, assured this Wednesday in a press conference that the company followed the protocols: "We are convinced that we have done things well".
According to the latest accounts filed in the Mercantile Registry, the factory met with all sorts of rules and security protocols. Specifically, it was subjected to the regulation OHSAS 18000:2007, which at least in 2018 it had passed “with favorable outcome” after expenses that brushed the half a million euros and that included an improvement of the fire protection network, equipment, process security, guards on machines, communication equipment and safety equipment. The company is part of a consortium formed by the major european producers of ethylene oxide, and glycols. And as a partner to the employers ' chemistry of Tarragona, AEQT, participated in a process of improvement of safety audits to the contractors. In relation to the regulation of serious accidents, a year ago they carried out an opinion of security evaluated by an inspection entity “with favourable results”. But it all seems to have failed after the disaster: Civil Protection of the Generalitat is accused now to IQOXE of "not to provide the information and do not follow the protocols," after the incident.
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Juan Antonio Labat, director of Feique, the employer's chemical Spanish, don't remember anything like this in his career. “In the absence of knowing the outcome of the investigation, you can't exclude an accident, that something fails in the process. We know that there are human errors. But no one thought we could get a plate of the reactor by the end of two kilometers of distance. I don't remember that there has been a similar case in the whole of Europe”. Refers to the metal plate of 1.22 meters wide, 1,65 long and three centimeters thick, which hit the building in the neighborhood of Torreforta after the explosion, causing the death of a resident of the town. The third floor of the building where he lived was shattered and the rubble crushed the victim. “Surely this will generate some kind of standard in the future,” he predicts. Labat remember that IQOXE was in the Responsible Care programme promoted by the employer where the companies of the sector share best practices in the field of security. “In the industry we protect a lot against possible accidents, the incidence is eight times lower than the industry average,” recalls Labat.
A powerful sector
The petrochemical sector in Catalonia is composed by 792 companies, in which they are employed 35,000 people, of which approximately 135 were employed in the plant accident, according to the Generalitat. According to the report, 2018 of the Chemical Business Association of Tarragona, the frequency index of accidents at the enterprises of this association was 1.65 for every million hours worked, "considerably lower" than that of most other sectors, not just industrial. In Spain the sector is formed by the 3,300 companies with a turnover of 65.647 million euros, which generated, according to Feique, the 13.4% of the industrial product and gross 670.000 jobs between direct (196.000), indirect and induced. The incidence rate of accidents was in 2018, three times lower than that experienced by the Services sector, with an accident each to 230,000 hours worked.Updated Date: 15 January 2020, 19:00