The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating a fatal incident at a Texas decaffeination plant

A US federal investigation has been launched after a carbon dioxide leak at a coffee roasting and decaffeination plant in Houston, Texas, led to the death of one employee. The incident occurred at Atlantic Coffee Solutions on 12 November.

‘The decaffeination process uses [supercritical] carbon dioxide, and when there is a leak it creates an oxygen-deficient environment,’ explains Ruy Lozano, a spokesman for Houston fire department. The firefighters who arrived on the scene closed a valve, shutting down the leak, and ventilated the area.

‘We are not sure how the leak occurred,’ Lozano stated, noting that the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is investigating the accident. The agency has up to six months to complete the review and decide on any necessary citations and penalties.

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which is the independent agency charged with examining serious industrial chemical accidents in the US, will not be investigating the Atlantic Coffee Solutions incident.

However, the CSB denies recent reports that it will halt new investigations until the end of the year in order to reorganise and ease current pressures created in part by a backlog of investigations. ‘The CSB does not have a moratorium on deployments,’ says spokeswoman Anne McCormick. Although the CSB is focusing on completing open investigations, she says that it will continue to pursue any ‘significant accident’ that warrants an investigation.