Worker Dies After Getting Severely Burned in Molten Silicon Spill

OSHA says it levied the maximum possible penalty against Globe Metallurgical after investigating the incident.

On April 24, 2018, 26-year-old Stephen Shanks and a co-worker were severely burned in an explosion from a molten silicon spill at the Globe Metallurgical plant in Selma, Ala.

Almost two weeks later, he died from the injuries he sustained in the industrial accident.

OSHA opened an investigation, and on Oct. 23, 2018, the agency imposed $25,868 in penalties. According to a release from OSHA, it is the maximum penalty allowed.

Over the course of the investigation, OSHA found that Globe Metallurgical, which is based in Beverly, Ohio, exposed employees to burn hazards by allowing them to use an unenclosed A&G Mercury tug to pull ladles/crucibles filled with 2,600°F molten silicon. OSHA found that the crucibles could overflow and cause an explosion, and the employees did not wear personal protective equipment to shield their face, neck and extremities. According to the report, workers drove the crucibles over irregular surfaces. The report doesn't specify exactly what they were driving over, but they fined the company for not regularly inspecting and maintaining the working surfaces.

Officially, OSHA cited the company for failing to inspect and maintain walking and working surfaces, assess work operations to determine appropriate personal protective equipment, and ensure that employees used the protective gear.

According to the Selma Times Journal, the Globe Metallurgical plant has a history of fatal accidents. In 2012, an employee died after falling off of a ladder. In 2004, another employee was fatally burned after an electric furnace erupted and exposed the man to temperatures exceeding 3,000°F. Three other workers have reportedly died at the plant since 1990.

Shanks died a couple of weeks before his 27th birthday.

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