INDIANAPOLIS — Nine workers at a Rolls-Royce plant near the Indianapolis International Airport were injured Friday when a tank of nitric acid exploded and filled the building with a cloud of corrosive vapor, officials said.
None of the workers suffered life-threatening injuries when a 250-gallon tank of nitric acid exploded about 1:30 p.m., Capt. Mike Pruitt of the Wayne Township Fire Department said. The explosion released a vapor cloud that left the workers with burns and breathing problems.
“Their main complaints were that they had inhaled it and they had some acid burns. It’s a corrosive acid,” he said.
Pruitt said eight workers were taken to local hospitals — seven in good condition and the eighth is stable and had no serious injuries. The ninth person was treated at the scene.
The cause of the explosion — and how much acid was released — remains under investigation by Rolls-Royce and fire officials, Pruitt said. He said the injured workers will be interviewed to determine how the explosion may have occurred and what they were doing before the blast.
The plant was evacuated immediately after the explosion, but the vapor later dissipated and Rolls-Royce staff were allowed back inside, he said.
Rolls-Royce said in a statement that it had cancelled the plant’s second and third Friday shifts and the building would be cleaned up over the weekend.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says nitric acid is corrosive and the vapor or mist form can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin. High concentrations of vapor can severely burn the eyes and skin.
Rolls-Royce has research facilities and an aircraft engine factory in Indianapolis.