POINT COMFORT – A 55-year-old Alcoa operator was treated at a Galveston hospital and released early Friday afternoon after he got a caustic chemical in his eye.
The man, who was not identified, was taken by air ambulance to the University of Texas Medical Branch from the Point Comfort plant around 8:30 a.m. Friday, said Laurel Cahill, Alcoa’s public information officer.
She said the caustic substance is sodium hydroxide, but she did not know the exact composition of the material.
The injury happened in the clarification area, one of the process areas of the alumina plant. During this step of the process, bauxite solids settle out and are filtered from the liquid alumina-caustic solution, Cahill said.
“The employee was working in the assigned area and doing a task that is done by the clarification department every day,” she said. “I don’t have details about what happened because the investigation is just starting. Alcoa has begun an investigation into the incident and has contacted the Mine Safety and Health Administration.”
John Radomsky, who works in that agency’s investigative division, said, “Unless an incident is expected to end in death, it is not required that we are notified immediately.”
However, Cahill said safety inspectors were to be on the site later Friday.
This latest incident follows three others injuries at the plant this year.
On Jan. 2, John Dorton, 37, of Port Lavaca, died after inhaling hydrogen fluoride gas in the area of the plant where aluminum fluoride is made.
In mid-June, seven people were exposed to hydrogen fluoride gas in the same area of the plant. However, the two incidents were not related, as Dorton and those injured in June were performing different tasks, Cahill said earlier.
After the June incident, Amy Louviere of the safety administration said two people were exposed to the gas, three others working nearby were affected and there was concern that two others could be contaminated. By the next day, all were released from Galveston and Victoria hospitals.
The third incident happened a little more than a week after the second one when two employees were injured after coming in contact with sodium hydroxide. One was treated for chemical burns to the lower body in a Galveston hospital, and the second was treated at a Victoria hospital for chemical burns to the foot.