An investigator who visited the plant said he saw dust particles floating in the air and also saw a layer of dust at 2 to 3 inches thick on flat surfaces, rafters and such as well. Another flash fire occurred at the plant in March, injuring another worker.
The investigator returned to the plant for another visit and said he saw improvement in terms of cleaning up the facility and removing the flammable material.
The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating and could fine and penalize Hoeganaes. TOSHA’s report is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks. A flash fire also occurred at the facility in 1997 and injured two employees.
A Hoeganaes spokesperson said the company has a strong housekeeping program and is cooperating with investigators. The company makes atomized iron power for metal parts.
The flash fire in January occurred as two maintenance workers on the night shift were repairing a bucket elevator. A dust collector was reportedly not working for a day or two prior to the work on the elevator and when it began operating again, the motion threw off some of the powder that had accumulated, igniting the dust and burning the workers.
Wiley Sherburne, 42, of Castalian Springs, died as a result of his injuries two days after the incident. Vernon Wayne Corley, 32, of Lebanon, received severe burns.
The man injured in the second flash fire in March was also seriously burned but is now back at work.
A benefit fund has been established at First Tennessee Bank for the family of Sherburne and also for Corley.