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Electrical Arc from Exposed Wire Likely Cause of Ignition Source that Killed Worker

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment
Tennessee – A Gallatin metal powders factory where five workers died in flash fires earlier this year said in a statement Wednesday that it is improving safety at the plant.

The Hoeganaes Corp. issued its statement hours after the release of a highly critical investigative report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The federal agency found that airborne iron dust at Hoeganaes ignited and created a fireball, burning workers in separate accidents in January, March and May of this year.

Board members said the accidents were preventable.

Hoeganaes said Wednesday that the company is developing what it called “an industry leading powder metal dust management system.” The statement said this and other actions are being taken “to ensure that similar accidents will not happen again.”

The Cinnaminson, N.J.,-based company produces atomized steel and iron powders for the automotive and other industries with facilities in the U.S., Germany, China and Romania. It is a subsidiary of GKN, a British multinational engineering company.

The Safety Board presented the results of its investigation into the three accidents during a public meeting in Gallatin where the widow of one of the workers killed at the Hoeganaes plant spoke on a panel.

Chris Sherburne, whose husband Wiley Sherburne died in January, told the board, “I’ve been asked to explain how our lives have been affected. I don’t know if I can actually do that.

“Everything changed that morning. We walked into the hospital and the first thing the doctors told us was that he was burned on 95 percent of his body and they didn’t think he was going to make it. There’s nothing you can say to that.”

She said the five workers who were killed have, all told, left several children behind.

“Everyday something they say or something they do – it’s heartbreaking. And the questions they ask, there’s just no answer,” she said.

Safety board investigators at the meeting blamed the accidents on a thick accumulation of combustible iron dust throughout the facility, and said the likely ignition source for the January accident that killed Wiley Sherburne and a co-worker was an electrical arc from exposed wiring that was not properly grounded.

In a subsequent accident in March that caused one injury, the dust may have been ignited by an open-flamed furnace. In another accident in May that killed three workers, hydrogen gas leaking from a corroded pipe exploded and then ignited falling dust.

Hoeganaes said in its statement that the Gallatin plant, which employs about 180 people, temporarily ceased production after the May 27 explosion and the company hired two outside firms to undertake a comprehensive safety review. Some of the recommendations being implemented include an upgrade of the electrical systems and replacement of the gas and air supply system. The company also says it is upgrading “gas management and hydrogen detection systems.”

Investigators criticized management for having no regular maintenance and inspection of the hydrogen lines and no procedure for how to deal with suspected leaks.

The safety board also found that multiple reports of earlier small fires, and even a deadly fire in 1996 at a New Jersey facility, did not spur Hoeganaes to try to mitigate the hazard. And it found workers were given no trainingto help them understand the dangers they faced.

According to the company’s statement, it is undertaking “full and comprehensive retraining of all employees.”

Investigators also faulted the Gallatin Fire Department for not recognizing that the iron dust accumulated on surfaces around the plant were a fire hazard when it inspected two weeks before the May accident.

According to the Hoeganaes statement, “The Company deeply regrets the loss of life at Gallatin” and is “taking every measure to ensure that Gallatin operates to world class standards.”

At the safety board meeting, investigator David Chicca was asked about measures Hoeganaes has taken to improve safety.

Chicca said during his last tour in August, the company was vacuuming up the dust and had made some effort to seal the dust collection system but had not yet done enough to guarantee that there would not be further accidents.

Story via ClaimsJournal.com

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Electrician Killed Wiring Hospital in

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Bangalore, India – Basavaraj from Hunsur was engrossed in wiring work on the terrace of an under construction eight-storey building on the Bowring hospital premises when he accidentally touched a live wire and suffered burns. He was rushed to the hospital’s emergency ward where he was declared brought dead, police said.

Basavaraj was working with the Bowring Hospital for the last three years. According to police, he was not a fully skilled electrician.

However, his brother Harish claimed that Basavaraj had turned off the main switch while working, and someone might have switched it on later, resulting in his death.

“We were informed about the mishap around 7 pm. We reached Bangalore around 1 pm. The body was not shown to us till Monday afternoon. It was only at 3.30 pm that the body was handed over to us,” Harish told Deccan Herald.

The police have booked a case of negligence against Nagarjuna Construction Company that is constructing the building.

Story via DeccanHerald.com

Investigation Revelas Fatal Fire Caused by Electrical Problem

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

FLORENCE, TENNESSEE – State Fire Marshal officials say wiring problems caused the fire last week that resulted in the death of a Florence man.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen said investigators ruled the fire was accidental and likely started from a receptacle in the living room of the house at 314 Patton St. in east Florence.

“We thought from the get go that it was likely some type of electrical problem,” Florence Fire Marshal Jeffrey Perkins said.

An autopsy determined Glen Marvin Hanback Sr., 54, died from smoke inhalation. Hanback’s body was found in the kitchen as firefighters battled the early morning fire Nov. 12.

The fire started in the living room, which is where neighbors said Hanback usually slept. Family members said he lived alone.

“The fire was so bad in the living room that it burned through the roof,” Perkins said. “As we got inside looking around, the attic throughout the house was charred. If the firefighters had not gotten (the fire) knocked down as soon as they did, the whole roof likely would have come down.”

It took firefighters 35 minutes to get the fire under control.

The fire was reported at 4:16 a.m. by a Florence police officer who was on patrol and saw flames in the house.

Sgt. Jeff Stanfield said when he arrived at the house, about two minutes after the call, flames had already broken through the roof and the windows.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 67,000 structure fires a year are caused by some type of electrical problem. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances, according to the fire administration.

A report by fire administration notes most electrical fires result from problems with faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Also, most of the residential fires start in a bedroom.

“This is a very tragic accident,” Perkins said of the east Florence fire.

The fire fatality is the fifth in the Shoals this year and the first in Florence since May 24, 2006.

A mother and her adult son died in a Muscle Shoals residential fire in October, while a Colbert County man died in a Spring Valley fire in May. A Tuscumbia man died in an apartment fire in March.

Story via Times Daily

Electrical Fire Ignites Professional Building in TN

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – Fire crews were able to put out an electrical fire that sparked Saturday on the top floor of a six-story Knoxville building.

Knoxville Fire Department officials said the fire was reported just after 7 a.m. at the Newland Professional Building. That’s in the 2000 block of Laurel Avenue at Fort Sanders Medical.

Independent contractors were working on a re-wiring project when an electrical panel sparked and ignited areas inside the building.

KFD officials said there were only Fort Sanders security personnel and contractors in the building at the time.

An electrical worker was sent to UT Medical Center for smoke inhalation and a firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion. No other injuries were reported.

The fire was out by about 8:30. Crews let the building clear of smoke and then checked for hot spots to prevent any potential fire hazards.

Story via WATE.com

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