Deadly Furnace Blast Brings Safety Fines

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 @ 04:10 PM gHale

When a boiler lid 20 feet in diameter flew off during an explosion inside the TIMET titanium manufacturing plant in Morgantown, PA, it killed 27-year-old furnace worker, Jacob Lopez, 27, and injured three other employees in the March 27 incident.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the plant on March 28 and just now issued a fine of $42,000.

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OSHA determined the electron beam furnace did not have the proper vacuum/pressure gauge to detect and prevent the buildup of hydrogen gas, which could have stopped the explosion. OSHA issued eight serious, including two general duty clause citations, and one other-than-serious citation on September 25.

Titanium Metals Corp. does business as TIMET. The company produces mill and melted titanium products at facilities in the U.S. and Europe, and supplies nearly one-fifth of the world’s titanium.

“TIMET’s electron beam furnace system had a history of problems, including an incident that occurred about a month prior to the fatal March explosion that significantly damaged the equipment,” said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA’s Harrisburg Area Office. “The employer clearly knew the potential for serious harm existed, but chose to do nothing. This resulted in damage to the facility and, tragically, the death of Jacob Lopez.”

The general duty clause citations included the furnace violation and storage racks not fastened properly to the floor. OSHA cited TIMET for serious violations, which included unguarded machinery, unmaintained exit routes and electrical hazards. The other-than-serious citation was for an obstructed exit sign.