Verla International has been in business since 1980. The company makes and fills a full spectrum of products: fragrance, skin care, body care, bath and spa-style products, hair care, color cosmetics, and nail polish and removers as well.
The Verla International site explains that the company specializes in products for the mass market and offers turn-key options in addition to being “a leading private label manufacturer and contract packaging and filling company with over 40 lines for nail polish, 40 lines for color cosmetics, personal care, creams, lotions, fragrances and perfumes.”
This isn’t the first tragedy that has befallen the beauty maker. In 2005, the company’s president Mario Maffei and two other key personnel were shot by a former Verla employee who had lost his job at the facility. (More on that incident, from nbcnews.com, can be found here.)
And this year, the company was cited for safety and handling violations. As the Associated Press reports, “Verla was cited for nine occupational safety violations earlier this year, according to records on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website. One was related to problems with the handling of flammable and combustible liquids.”
To atone for those violations as well as for improper respirator protections for employees and poor facility road maintenance, Verla International conceded to pay $41,000.
Monday morning at about 10:15am, there was an explosion at the Verla International facility. Emergency responders were on the scene quickly and at 10:40am when a second explosion occurred, several firefighters were already inside.
The resulting fire burned into the night even with firefighters and emergency materials crews on the scene. Some 35 people were injured in the disaster, including 7 firefighters. One Verla International employee was killed.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement yesterday: “Following today's chemical explosion, I am directing a multi-agency investigation to get to the bottom of what happened and review compliance with state labor and environmental laws.”
Investigators will be looking into working conditions as well as regulatory compliance, according to the AP. Yesterday, the State dispatched homeland security staff, state police, environmental conservation enforcement officers, and health department technicians to the scene.
It's interesting to note here that homeland security runs a program known as CFATS, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. The list of participating manufacturers is not public; but it's telling that homeland security was involved early on in the investigation of this incident.
“Chemicals continue to be a high-value target for terrorists to use in potential attacks,” according to Dave Wulf, infrastructure security compliance division director who spoke to Cosmetics Design about CFATS early this year. The risk of attacks makes “CFATS essential not only to reducing the risk associated with the misuse of these chemicals, but also to building a sustainable chemical security enterprise in the long run.”