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OSHA fines Pennsylvania company in fatal workplace accident

On July 29, it was originally reported that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited and fined a manufacturing factory for a Jan. 30 blast that took the life of one worker and injured another in St. Marys, about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The company, Mersen USA, was ordered to pay $7,000 in fines.

According to OSHA officials, the explosion occurred at the plant when an employee mistakenly placed objects coated with a flammable substance made from alcohol and iodine into the factory's electric curing oven. A 52-year-old worker, who was the company's global director of research and development in Boonton, New Jersey, died in the explosion. A 58-year-old Ridgway man who supervises at the plant was also injured.

OSHA officials and the factory's general manager both stated that an unnamed employee who misused the plant's curing oven, which was not suitable for the highly flammable material, caused the blast. The oven was otherwise safe, noted the plant's manager. OSHA advised the factory to train its workers sufficiently in the safety and use of its curing ovens.

The manufacturing company produces high-heat and graphite-based parts for electric power applications. When the report was released, Mersen was given 15 business days from OSHA's citation notification to dispute the fine and citation. It was not reported, however, what the company intended do.

Family members of factory workers who have died in serious industrial accidents, such as explosions, are usually qualified to collect death and burial benefits through workers' compensation claims. However, an attorney may advise a family to file a civil claim if an accident was the result of negligence on behalf of another worker or the employer. If a civil claim were filed against the employer, workers' compensation benefits would have to be waived.

Source: The Republic, "OSHA says worker wrongly put parts coated with flammables into oven before fatal explosion", Joe Mandak, August 14, 2014

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