‘Catastrophic Failure’ Hurts 8 at Foundry

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 @ 08:05 PM gHale


A “catastrophic failure” of machinery Monday inside the Johnson Brass & Machine Foundry in Saukville, WI, spilled molten metal and injured eight workers, officials said Tuesday.

Four workers remained hospitalized Tuesday, while three others ended up treated and released, said police Sgt. Robert Ramthun.

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Lance Johnson, president of Johnson Brass, said Tuesday the four hospitalized workers did not have life-threatening injuries.

The machine failure occurred around 4 p.m. Monday, causing molten brass to spray inside a room of the sprawling foundry complex, burning the workers and starting a small fire inside the plant, Ramthun said. There did not appear to have been an explosion, as village fire officials first said Monday.

Johnson said liquid metal sprayed onto the legs and backs of the injured workers.

The fire ended up extinguished by hand-held extinguishers, police said.

In a revised injury report, village police reported emergency workers flew two of the workers via helicopter to the burn center at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Two others went to Columbia St. Mary’s in ambulances.

Johnson’s statement did not describe whether the eighth worker ended up treated for injuries.

The injured workers were on a platform adjacent to a large centrifuge used in the brass casting process when the equipment failed, authorities said. The platform collapsed.

Molten brass was pouring into the centrifuge at that time, Saukville Fire Chief Gilly Schultz said Monday. The centrifuge spins about 450 revolutions per minute, and the brass heated to 2,100 degrees.

“For more than one hundred years, my family has taken great pride in our safety record and our close relationship with our employees,” Johnson said. “As the fourth president of this family-owned business, I can say we are all deeply saddened by the accident at our plant.” Johnson Brass opened its doors in 1905.

The state fire marshal’s office is assisting Saukville police in an ongoing investigation of the cause of the machinery failure. Federal officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also were on the scene.



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