An explosion at AVS Inc. in Ayer, MA on March 23 injured two workers, one of whom later died. The explosion and its aftermath have shaken the small town about 40 miles northwest of Boston.
AVS, or Advanced Vacuum Systems, makes custom vacuum and pressure furnaces. Three workers were inside the building, located on Fitchburg Road in Ayer, when the blast occurred at around 5:20 in the afternoon. Flaming debris set the building ablaze. One of the men suffered burns to 25 percent of his body and was airlifted to an area hospital where he died. Two firefighters were also injured as they battled the fire that tore holes through the roof the building.
Investigators from seven state, local and federal agencies including the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, the state Fire Marshal’s office, and a team from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the explosion. They suspect a pressure vessel malfunction was the source of the explosion.
“What we often see is that these tragedies were preventable,” said Fred Pritzker, an explosion attorney who represents clients who have been injured and families who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one in an explosion. Typically, OSHA will issue a report on an investigation of a fatality within six months, Pritzker said. They’ll be looking very carefully at safety measures and the quality and maintenance of the equipment, he said.
Past OSHA Violations
AVS was founded in 1967 and describes its location in Ayer as its primary manufacturing on its website. The company has been cited by OSHA for safety violations in the past. In August 2014, the company was cited by OSHA for two serious respiratory protection violations, according to the agency’s records. And in 2010, it received citations for serious violations including some related to compressed gasses, electrical protection devices, sanitation, and wiring methods.
The investigation of the explosion is ongoing.