Why did the Ohio Foundry Explosion Happen?
Posted on 8/16/2023
In late February, a steam explosion at a Schumann & Co. metals plant in Bedford, Ohio caused one fatality (a maintenance supervisor) and sent 15 other crew members to the hospital, 2 in critical condition at the time. An investigation has uncovered the reasons the accident occurred.
According to OSHA’s investigation, maintenance personnel were inspecting a water leak on a furnace used for smelting solid metals when the steam explosion happened. It was caused by water having leaked onto the molten metal inside of the furnace. Several safety violations led up to this event.
1. Employees should be protected from recognized dangerous or fatal hazards. In this case, the hazard was steam explosions caused by water filtration into molten metal. It was found that the February incident was not the only time the crew wasn’t protected from this danger.
2. Procedures should be in place and followed to control potentially hazardous energy when employees are performing work in the area. Schumann & Co. did not ensure the procedure was followed to control the “hazardous gravitational, water, thermal, electrical, natural gas, and oxygen gas energy sources” while one of the rotary furnaces was being inspected by maintenance personnel.
3. Schumann & Co. did not make sure that lockout or tagout procedures were followed by maintenance personnel. These procedures included shutting down the furnace electrical rotation drive motor, both isolating and affixing lockout devices natural gas, oxygen gas, and electrical energy sources in the furnace, among others. Use the link to the violations for a complete list of violations in this section.
4. Failure to ensure that authorized employees (in this case the maintenance lead and maintenance supervisor) had affixed a personal lockout or tagout device to a group lockout device, group lockbox, or other comparable mechanism before inspecting (the furnace).
5. Procedures should outline the control of hazardous energy in complete detail. The organization failed to clearly identify specific procedural steps while inspecting the furnace for water leaks for safe shutdown, isolating, blocking, and securing the electrical, water, and thermal (liquid molten metal bath) energy sources. These procedures are in place to prevent the release of water from contacting the liquid molten metal bath (thermal energy) inside the furnace and causing a steam explosion.
6. Schumann & Co. did not ensure that a periodic inspection of the lockout/tagout procedure for the furnace was being performed at least annually. This inspection exists to make sure that the procedures and standards are being followed.
The citations total a proposed $62,500 in penalties. The organization has 15 days to comply with citations and penalties.
The Ohio foundry steam explosion is unfortunately one of many that highlights the importance of safety procedures including lockout/tagout, shutting down equipment when needed, and regular inspections and reviews of procedures.
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