AMRDEC worker injured in explosives accident
Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton and AMRDEC director Eric Edwards address reporters at a press conference after the Oct. 16 injury.

A contractor employee was injured Oct. 16 while handling explosives in a laboratory at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center.

Bill Barber, a Dynetics employee who has prior experience with explosives, was injured before 8 a.m. while handling an explosive in a lab at AMRDEC's headquarters in building 5400 on Fowler Road, just south of Martin Road.

"The employee was handling a small explosive device," AMRDEC director Eric Edwards said during a press conference at Gate 9 after the incident. "He received non-life-threatening injuries."

AMRDEC personnel, and Garrison emergency and safety personnel responded immediately to the accident; and Barber was transported via the Huntsville Emergency Medical Services to Huntsville Hospital. Family members later reported that Barber underwent surgery on his left hand and "he is doing fine."

An investigation is being conducted by Redstone Arsenal's Police investigative agencies, and safety professionals from AMRDEC and Garrison safety offices. Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel from Fort Campbell, Ky., are assisting in the investigation. An inspector from the Birmingham Office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also conducting an investigation.

"We will determine the cause so we can take corrective action," Edwards said.

Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton visited the site soon after the accident.

"Damages and injuries were contained right to the immediate working area. Appropriate steps were taken to ensure the rest of the work force is safe," Hamilton said. "The area was cleared out and sealed off."

Employees were evacuated from the area.

Describing the area of the explosion as a "bench/desk type area," Hamilton said "it was a small contained area. You could tell how small the explosive was by how little damage was done to the work area."

Hamilton emphasized that a thorough investigation of the accident will be conducted.

"Our first priority is to the employee to make sure he's getting the medical care he needs and that's happening at the hospital. Our second priority is to determine how this happened to ensure that it doesn't happen again," he said.

Barber has supported AMRDEC for four years as an ordnance specialist and conducts safety training for his team. Preliminary indications are that Barber was operating within the normal scope of his operations at the time of the incident.

Besides the cause of the incident, Edwards said the investigation will also determine the nature of the explosive, if the employee had the appropriate training for the type of explosive he was handling, and what occurred immediately prior to and after the explosion.

The director said investigators will put "all the rigor they need" into the investigation, and will ask questions such as "Are the right procedures in place?" and "Where did the breakdown occur?"

The accident will be recreated to "determine the nature of the small explosive device, how it came to be in that area and what the employee was doing," Edwards said.

It was unknown how long the investigation will take.

Hamilton said that Army technical support will be called on as needed in the investigation.

"Across the Army we have a great deal of expertise," he said. "They'll have the support they need to get to the bottom of what happened."

Page last updated Fri October 26th, 2012 at 00:00