A U.S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Safety and Health investigation concluded that the management at I. Schumann & Co. LLC, Bedford, OH, failed to ensure that required lockout/tag-out procedures were followed during an inspection of a water leak on a melting furnace. According to OSHA, the water came into contact with molten metal, causing a steam explosion.
That February 21 incident killed a maintenance supervisor and injured 15 other employees. More than 60 firefighters fought the blaze that followed the incident, which generated heavy flames and dense smoke. The explosion sent debris flying, causing damage to vehicles in the surrounding area.
I. Schumann & Co. – which has remained closed since February – is a scrap recycler and manufacturer of primary metals, degassers/deoxidizers, grain refiners and master alloys. The business pledged to cooperate with federal and state investigators following the incident.
Schumann was cited for six serious violations and OSHA has proposed $62,500 in penalties. According to OSHA procedures, Schumann was allowed 15 business days from receipt of its 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.
OSHA terminology identifies a “serious” violation as one from which death or serious physical harm may result, and about which an employer knew or should have known exists.
Lockout/tag-out, or LOTO, describes standardized steps for powering down and securing equipment, machinery, or processes so energy or other hazards are prevented during servicing or repair. OSHA posts machine guarding and control of hazardous energy documentation online, to provide information on what employers must do to limit worker exposures to workplace hazards.
"This terrible tragedy could have been avoided if the employer followed well-known machine safety standards that are meant to prevent this type of explosion," stated OSHA’s Cleveland area director, Howard Eberts. "Sadly, a worker lost his life and 15 others were hurt in an incident that was entirely preventable. It’s exactly why employers need to follow required safety procedures and train their employees."