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Watchdog: Accountability

OSHA: Flammables put in factory oven before blast

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Photo - In this photo from Jan 31, 2014, a firetruck rolls past Mersen USA where an explosion killed one person and injured two in St. Marys, Pa. Federal safety officials said a worker wrongly put parts coated with flammable materials into an electric oven before it exploded at the plant, killing a visiting employee. (AP Photo/ Dubois Courier Express-JoAnn Seltzer)
In this photo from Jan 31, 2014, a firetruck rolls past Mersen USA where an explosion killed one person and injured two in St. Marys, Pa. Federal safety officials said a worker wrongly put parts coated with flammable materials into an electric oven before it exploded at the plant, killing a visiting employee. (AP Photo/ Dubois Courier Express-JoAnn Seltzer)
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A worker wrongly put parts coated with flammable materials into an electric oven before it exploded at a Pennsylvania factory, killing a visiting employee, federal workplace safety officials said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed the Mersen USA plant in St. Marys pay a $7,000 fine.

Noah Nichelson, the general manager of the plant about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, had previously blamed the explosion on "incorrect placement of materials in an otherwise safely operating curing oven." Nichelson didn't immediately return calls for comment Thursday as to whether the company will contest the OSHA fine.

The Jan. 30 explosion killed 52-year-old Arwed Ralf Uecker, the global director of research and development for Mersen USA Bn Group, based in Boonton, New Jersey.

The blast also injured Neil Carter, 58, of Ridgway, a plant production supervisor. The status of his recovery was not immediately available Thursday.

OSHA issued the citation and proposed penalty, which was first reported by The (DuBois) Courier-Express, on July 29.

Mersen manufactures parts for use in electrical power applications that can withstand high temperatures, and other graphite-based components.

According to OSHA, a worker who was not named in the citation was using the oven to heat parts coated with a flammable iodine/alcohol solution. The oven wasn't rated to safely heat parts with flammable coatings, OSHA found.

OSHA recommended that the company train employees about the hazards of heating parts coated with flammable substances in unsuitable ovens and prevent employees from using ovens that aren't safety rated to heat such parts.

Mersen has 15 working days from the citation notice to contest the citation and fine.

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