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What we know about Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, the business where a major explosion happened on Friday

What it looks inside Watson Valve Services.
What it looks inside Watson Valve Services. (Watson Valve Services)

The company where an explosion occurred Friday morning is locally owned and has been in business since 1972.

The explosion happened around 4:20 a.m. at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing located at 4525 Gessner Road. The business is about half a mile away from homes on Rockcrest Road and Stanford Court. Two employees who were using the gym facilities early in the morning were killed in the explosion.

The company issued a statement Friday night, addressing the tragedy:

Watson Grinding and Manufacturing experienced an incident in the early hours of January 24, 2020 that resulted in the fatalities of two of our employees and impacted our operations.

We are saddened by the tragic passing of our coworkers, and our deepest sympathies are with their families for their profound loss.

We are working diligently to address the situation and cooperating with the federal, state and local authorities investigating the accident. We are extremely grateful for the brave efforts of first responders who were on the scene immediately, and we will continue to give our full cooperation and support to their efforts.

Our hearts go out to the families and businesses impacted by this incident and to our community. At this time our immediate concern is the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the area and our employees.

Further updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

See damage in and around the northwest Houston blast site on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
See damage in and around the northwest Houston blast site on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (KPRC via Tharindu N)

This is what we know right now about the business:

Owner: John M. Watson

Number of employees: 150-200 people

Established: 1972

What they do: Provide machining, grinding, lapping and thermal spray coatings. They sell services to energy-related, power utility, pipeline, chemical, fertilizer and mining industries.

History of the business: It was founded as a grinding shop in 1960 by James Watson. It eventually grew into a full-scale machine shop.

Today: Now they specialize in the turning and milling of exotic alloys, hard metals and large parts. Their website says they are the leader in the “precise application of thermal spray coatings that extend the service life of parts in highly corrosive environments.”

Family business: The company is owned by the founder’s son, John Watson; son-in-law, Bob White; and grandson, Jason White.

Reports: Their last OSHA inspection appears to be in 2015 and there were no violations found. You can read it here.

In 2013, OSHA fined Watson Valve for 2 violations the agency categorized as “serious.” Watson paid a fine of $8,316. In 2008, another “serious” OSHA violation resulted in a fine of $5,250.

While we do not know the exact nature of these violations, we do know OSHA issues “serious” violations when an employer knows of or should know of a situation that has a definite chance of causing serious injury or death, but does not remedy it. Failure to ensure that employees who carry heavy loads wear steel-toe boots is an example of a serious violation.