News | August 26, 1999

Foundry Settles with OSHA, Agrees to Pay Fine and Correct Hazards

Jahn Foundry Corp. (Springfield, MA) has agreed to correct safety and health hazards at its Springfield foundry, pay a $148,500 penalty, and take significant steps to improve safety and health at all its Massachusetts facilities. The agreement was announced yesterday by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

On Feb. 25, a catastrophic dust explosion in the foundry's Shell Mold Building resulted in the deaths of three workers and serious injuries to nine others. Following a six-month, comprehensive OSHA inspection of the Springfield foundry, OSHA cited the company for a total of 40 safety and health violations and assessed a fine of $148,500.

Under the terms of yesterday's settlement, Jahn Foundry Corp. agreed to pay the full penalty; correct all hazards identified in the inspection; institute a comprehensive safety and health program, with management accountability, for all aspects of its operations at all it Massachusetts facilities; utilize state-of-the-art equipment and systems in rebuilding its Shell Mold department; and issue a clear written policy on safe and healthful working conditions to all current and future employees.

"This settlement agreement goes beyond simple correction of the hazards cited by OSHA in its inspection," said Ruth McCully, OSHA regional administrator for New England. "It establishes a foundation and a framework for ongoing improvements at all of Jahn's Bay State facilities to not only prevent another catastrophic event, but also provide a safer, healthier work environment for all company workers. The agreement holds Jahn to specific deadlines and provides OSHA with the tools and access necessary to track progress and compliance. It also means that corrective action by the company can start immediately, without its being delayed by potentially lengthy litigation."

In a statement released yesterday, Jahn Foundry Corp. announced the settlement agreement and made no comment other than to say it "denies any wrongdoing."

In addition to OSHA's comprehensive safety and health inspection of the Springfield foundry, a concurrent joint investigation into the cause and origin of the February fire and explosion was conducted by OSHA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' State Fire Marshal's Office and the Springfield Fire Department's Arson and Bomb Squad. That investigation concluded that an initiating fire event in a shell mold station entered the station's exhaust system, whose interior ductwork was heavily coated with deposits of combustible phenol formaldehyde resin.

The ignition of this dust caused a turbulent fire and explosion, which traveled through the interior ductwork and in turn shook down explosive concentrations of combustible resin dust that had collected on surfaces throughout the Shell Mold Building. When the fire exploded out from the ductwork, it ignited these airborne concentrations of combustible dust, causing a catastrophic dust explosion that lifted the building's roof and blew out its walls.

"Two of the citations issued by OSHA today specifically address conditions related to the fire and explosion," said Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director in Springfield. "Namely, failure to regularly clean up large accumulations of combustible resin dust in the exhaust system's interior ductwork and on surfaces throughout the Shell Mold Building, and failure to adequately maintain the fuel train devices which delivered the proper mixture of oxygen and natural gas to the shell molding machines."

According to Kipp W. Hartmann, who coordinated OSHA's on-scene response to the fire and explosion, investigators found that the Shell Mold Department had not been subject to a thorough cleaning in over two years and the exhaust ducts had not received any interior cleaning in over six years. "The failure to properly maintain the fuel trains on the eight shell mold machines allowed for potential localized gas fire or explosions within the shell mold stations. Proper maintenance of the fuel trains would have minimized the possibility of this sort of ignition event in the first place, while prompt and regular removal of combustible accumulations of resin dust would have eliminated the possibility of an isolated ignition event mushrooming into a catastrophic explosion," said Hartmann.

OSHA's inspection also identified an additional 38 violations in other areas of the foundry which, though unrelated to the fire and explosion, would pose a hazard to employee safety or health if left uncorrected. These citations Include:

  • A crane being operated with damaged running ropes and obstructed operator vision.
  • Unguarded or inadequately guarded moving parts on a variety of machines.
  • Lack of guardrails or equivalent fall protection at different locations.
  • Damaged fork trucks not removed from use.
  • Unapproved electrical equipment used in wet locations and ungrounded or unlabeled electrical equipment.
  • Noise monitoring not conducted when required.
  • Various deficiencies in the provision, use, or fit-testing of respirators.
  • Deficiencies in the company's program for handling emergencies in permit-required confined spaces.
  • Employees exposed to excessive levels of coal tar pitch volatiles, silica, and a mixture of ammonia, phenol, and formaldehyde where feasible engineering controls had not been implemented to reduce those exposure levels.

As part of the settlement agreement, the company agreed to implement a comprehensive safety and health program by Oct. 1, 1999, for all its operations. The program will include, but not be limited to:

  • Employing a full-time safety and health manager.
  • Establishing a preventive maintenance program which includes a database for checking occurrence, frequency and repair of all maintenance problems, including provisions to ensure proper operation of shell molding fuel trains and prevention of accumulation of explosive resin dust.
  • A written affirmation by Jahn's president of the fundamental importance of worker safety and health through the issuance of a clear policy on safe and healthful working conditions to all current employees and new hires.
  • Establishing clear safety and health goals for management, with clear responsibilities, goals and accountability, and overseen by senior management.
  • Committing sufficient resources and personnel to conduct annual safety and health program reviews to improve the company's ability to identify and correct hazards; conduct quarterly work site inspections to identify and eliminate specific hazards; and provide for employee safety and health training, primarily to address conditions and hazards cited in safety and health inspections.

The company will also allow OSHA reasonable access to all company facilities to conduct inspections to evaluate progress and compliance under the agreement.

Jahn Foundry Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Atchison Casting Corp. (Atchison, KS), produces small- to medium-sized ferrous castings at its Springfield facility.