Man dies from Globe explosion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

Tony Bradley died Friday morning due to injuries sustained in an explosion at Globe Metallurgical last week.

On May 28, a furnace exploded while Bradley and fellow Globe employee Arthur Thicklin were performing maintenance on it. Globe processes silicon and ferrosilicon alloys.

Thicklin burned his shoulder in the explosion but said he would be back at work the following Monday. Bradley sustained extensive burns and was transported to the burn care unit at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham. He died at 7:45 a.m. Friday.

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Thicklin said he didn’t know what caused the explosion.

“Only thing I knew is the thing exploded,” Thicklin said in an earlier interview. “I just remember I heard a big explosion.”

Hayes Kern, Globe Metallurgical spokesperson, said the company was upset by the accident.

“We’re deeply saddened by this,” Kern said. “The company as a whole feels for the family and friends of Tony.”

According to company officials, the accident is under investigation by a private corporation.

“We have professionals investigating it,” Kern said.

OSHA investigators are also conducting an investigation.

“We are in fact working energetically with OSHA (investigators) to investigate this and guarantee a safe workplace,” Kern said.

Kern couldn’t comment on possible causes of the explosion.

The furnace where the eruption occurred, according to Kern, is not now in operation. The rest of the mill is working normally.

Since 1990, three similar fatalities have occurred at Globe Metallurgical. In July 1996, Johnny Dunklin was killed when a furnace erupted, creating a flash fire according to a report in the STJ. Dunklin was burned by the eruption and later died at Four Rivers Medical Center. OSHA fined Globe Metallurgical, although the investigation didn’t find the company in willful violation of safety standards. According to the same article, two were killed in September 1990, in an almost identical incident.

OSHA investigators said they couldn’t comment on the cause of the latest explosion until the investigation was complete, which should be 60-90 days.

“We have six months to complete the investigation,” OSHA investigator Ken Atha said. “They (investigations) average about 30 days, (but) fatalities do take longer.”

According to Atha, who works out of the OSHA office in Mobile, OSHA is required to investigate any accident involving a fatality or hospitalization of three or more employees.

“If it’s anything less than that a determination is made,” Atha said. “If it’s a serious injury, we feel that’s important and we need to find out what’s going on.”

“The investigation opens up with the employer,” Atha said. “We don’t give any advance notice. Our process of investigation is the same no matter what,” he said.

OSHA has seen a significant increase in fatalities and serious accidents in the Mobile office’s region lately.

“We cover 37 counties,” Atha said. “Statistically, there are peak periods, certainly around the holidays and…the summer.”

Last year, the Mobile office recorded 17 fatalities. In the last few weeks, five serious incidents have been recorded.

“We saw a significant reduction (this year) until these last two weeks,” Atha said. “People are hurried and possibly not paying attention. It’s clear that’s a trend we see.”