Deadly mix: Federal workplace safety investigations find severe injuries, fatality caused by steam explosions at 2 Ohio companies
WATERFORD, OH ‒ With proper training, people working in metal casting facilities know that mixing water and molten material can be a serious, if not deadly mistake, as tragic incidents at two Ohio companies in 2022 showed.
On July 10, the combination of water with tons of superheated material spilling onto a foundry floor caused a steam explosion that severely injured a supervisor at Globe Metallurgical in Waterford. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the company failed to use required containment measures and did not provide workers responding to the spill with personal protective equipment.
OSHA learned employees were pouring molten material into a large ladle for cast forms when the material burned through the bottom of the ladle and about 8,000 pounds of molten material – heated to nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit – spilled. Employees responded by spraying water on the spill and using a forklift to try to break up the material when an explosion occurred, which caused the supervisor to suffer third-degree burns.
The agency issued a citation to Globe Metallurgical Inc., one of the nation’s largest ferroalloy manufacturers, for one willful violation of the general duty clause for its failure to provide a safe working environment, and three serious safety violations. Inspectors identified the company’s failure to develop containment measures for molten materials, its lack of adequate personal protective equipment and its failure to train workers on its use. OSHA has proposed penalties of $188,533.
“Globe Metallurgical Inc. might have prevented the severe injuries this employee suffered had the company put required safety protections in place,” said OSHA Area Director Larry Johnson in Columbus. “A company this size should be acutely aware of industry regulations that protect workers who handle molten materials and the required procedures for responding safely to emergencies.”
In Canton, three furnace attendants working at TimkenSteel’s Faircrest plant suffered severe injuries on July 26, 2022, after an explosion of an electric arc furnace after water became encapsulated in molten metal. All three workers were hospitalized, one of whom died on Aug. 19. OSHA investigators determined the company failed to provide the attendants with protection from potential steam explosions. They were conducting furnace-tapping operations at the time.
OSHA cited TimkenSteel for one willful violation of the agency’s general duty clause and proposed penalties of $145,027. The agency has cited the company four times in the past five years for safety and health violations. In June 2022, OSHA cited TimkenSteel after a worker suffered fatal crushing injuries during an incident in December 2021 at its Gambrinus facility in Canton.
“The potential for steam explosions from mixing water and molten metal is a well-known and documented industry hazard. TimkenSteel has experience with the hazard and developed company safety procedures to prevent its dangers, but failed to implement them,” said OSHA Area Director Howard Eberts in Cleveland. “Employers must protect workers from known hazards whether a specific OSHA standard exists or not.”
Globe Metallurgical Inc. manufactures metallurgical and chemical-grade silicon metal and silicon-based alloys. A subsidiary of Globe Specialty Metals and part of Ferroglobe PLC, it is one of the world’s largest producers of silicon metal. Globe Metallurgical employs about 750 workers in the U.S. with 300 in Waterford.
TimkenSteel is a leading producer of carbon steel, alloy and micro-alloy steel in specialty bars, mechanical tubing and other products used in the automotive, industrial and energy markets. The company employs 1,800 workers.
Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.