The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued eight serious citations and one other-than-serious citation to Titanium Metals Corp. (TIMET) after determining that an improperly equipped furnace led to a deadly explosion at the company's manufacturing plant in Morgantown, Pennsylvania.

A 27-year-old furnace worker was killed in the explosion when a boiler lid flew off inside the titanium manufacturing plant. The lid, which was 20 feet in diameter, struck Jacob Lopez and injured three other employees in the incident. OSHA found that the electron beam furnace was not equipped with the proper vacuum/pressure gauge to detect and prevent the buildup of hydrogen gas, which could have prevented the explosion.

"TIMET's electron beam furnace system had a history of problems, including an incident that occurred about a month prior to the fatal March explosion that significantly damaged the equipment," said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA's Harrisburg area office. "The employer clearly knew the potential for serious harm existed but chose to do nothing. This resulted in damage to the facility and, tragically, the death of Jacob Lopez."

The general duty clause citations included the furnace violation and storage racks not fastened properly to the floor. OSHA also cited TIMET for serious violations, which included unguarded machinery, unmaintained exit routes and electrical hazards. The other-than-serious citation was due to an obstructed exit sign. Proposed penalties total $42,000.

TIMET, which supplies nearly one-fifth of the world's titanium, produces mill and melted titanium products at facilities in the United States and Europe.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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