Ohio Foundry Explosion
On February 20th around 2pm an explosion erupted at the I. Schumann & Co. Foundry in Bedford, Ohio. The foundry recycles scrap metal into bronze and brass ingots and pellets. Fire officials say the cause of the explosion is under investigation by state and federal authorities but it appears the blast originated near a kettle-like piece of equipment which holds molten metals before being poured into molds.
The blast was so severe an entire wall on the northern side of the foundry was completely blown off, part of the roof was blown off, debris littered the ground hundreds of yards away including bricks, steel beams, rebar, and other large metal objects. Several vehicles across the street caught fire and some were crushed by the flying debris.
According to Captain DiRocco of the Oakwood Village Fire Department this was the largest fire the village has ever seen. 14 fire departments and more than 60 firefighters responded to the scene, they rescued several from inside the foundry, but DiRocco commented that many burn victims were walking up to firefighters wounded. In total, 14 individuals were treated for severe injuries, mostly burns, and one man passed as a result of the incident. The employee who did not make it was Steven Mullins, an employee of nearly 30 years who worked in the plant’s maintenance department.
I. Schumann & Co. is in the 4th generation of family ownership since the business opened in 1917. They released a statement that they are committed to ensuring employees receive the proper medical care and investigators are supported to determine the cause of this incident.
Firefighters believe the investigation may take a while considering they are still working with structural engineers to determine if the interior of the building is safe to enter. The State Fire Marshal released an official statement later that day, he believes the explosion was not the result of a criminal act and noted the Hillcrest-Heights Regional Investigation Unit, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio are all assisting in the investigation.
Officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were also on scene and are investigating the incident as well. At this time the EPA did not feel there was a reason to evacuate the area despite residents reporting strong smells of burning oil and large smoke plumes that showed up on weather radars.
DiRocco noted the plant underwent annual fire inspections and, “The building was in good standing. They have been in the village for a very long time. Any time they have had a violation – even if it is a small one – they have fixed whatever it is.”
However, larger violations were disclosed in several news reports about the incident. In 2019 OSHA fined I. Schumann & Co. after investigators reported an employee suffered third degree burns to his chest and back after molten metal was spilled on his clothing which were not fire resistant nor fire retardant. The molten metal splashed on the employees clothing and lit them on fire.
Then in 2022 OSHA cited the company after employees were exposed to lead at concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a period of 8 hours. According to federal documents these incidents are still being settled with the company.
The Ohio EPA also noted that 11 violations were found that related to the storage and disposal of hazardous waste. The company responded with a detailed plan to fix the issues.
In the coming weeks, officials conducting investigations will likely come to some sort of conclusion as to what triggered the Ohio Foundry Explosion. For now, we hope those injured will be able to recover and receive the support they need from the company while the plant is no longer in operating condition.
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