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Chemical Safety Board releases report of December 2010 explosion

Pennsylvania residents may have noted the findings released on July 16 by U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators regarding a fire and explosion that took place in a recycling plant in December 2010. AL Solutions operated a small plant in Cumberland, West Virginia, that processed titanium and zirconium, highly flammable materials, into compact pieces to be used as alloy additives. In the report, the CSB notes that federal regulators, state inspectors and company officials failed to act on previous recommendations to improve workplace safety.

The explosion killed three people when sparks from a blender used to mix the milled metals ignited the metal dust. AL Solutions had a manual regarding safety requirements, but these were not enforced. Numerous problems with the blender were brought to the attention of management, but maintenance workers applied quick fixes each time instead of replacing the blender and permanently addressing the problem of metal-to-metal contact.

Since the accident, AL Solutions has closed the West Virginia plant and opened a new facility in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. The CSB has no authority to enforce rules, issue citations or levy fines. Its mission is to investigate workplace accidents and make recommendations to avoid a recurrence. Agency officials have been frustrated by the lack of response from federal regulators, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in creating safety standards regarding combustible dust.

The financial impact of the death of someone who provides most of a household's income can be devastating to a family, especially if the death occurred during the course of the decedent's employment. While workers' compensation death benefits can provide some relief, the employer's insurance provider may offer a settlement that does not cover all of the costs resulting from the worker's death. If either of these scenarios does occur, the insurance provider may even deny a death benefits claim. At such times, the family may consider seeking legal representation.

Source: WV Gazette, "CSB: Hancock plant deaths show need for OSHA dust rule", Ken Ward Jr., July 16, 2014

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