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Plant Fined In Fatal Blast

June 15, 2011
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

NEW CUMBERLAND - Federal officials want to fine AL Solutions Inc. $154,000 for allegedly committing 18 safety violations that contributed to the December explosion that killed three Hancock County men.

Sixteen of the violations for which the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is citing the New Cumberland chemical plant are considered serious, with one termed "willful."

Those who perished were processing titanium and zirconium when the blast happened Dec. 9. New Cumberland-based brothers Jeff and James Fish, as well as co-worker Steven Swain of Weirton, died as a result of the explosion.

"This tragedy could have been prevented," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. "It is imperative that employers take steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment."

Officials at AL Solutions could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Information on the company's website states AL Solutions has "embarked on an aggressive program to further improve on product quality and further strengthen its procurement and operational capabilities in order to better serve the growing requirements of the global aluminum industry."

OSHA officials said AL Solutions is now in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which the agency said is specifically for "recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations."

OSHA noted the "willful" violation the company committed involved the use of an unsound water sprinkler system, thereby creating the explosion hazard.

"A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health," OSHA's information states.

According to OSHA, AL Solutions' serious violations include the company's alleged "failure to provide a properly designed gas detection system for hydrogen; provide over-pressure protection; safely store flammable metals; provide safe egress; provide appropriate personal protective equipment; ensure the safe use of forklifts; and provide hazard communication training."

OSHA said a serious violation occurs when there is a strong chance that death or serious physical harm could result from a condition about which the employer knew or should have known.

The other-than-serious violation is the company's failure to maintain required record keeping by not completing OSHA Form 301, the Injury and Illness Incident Report.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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