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Workers injured in Amsted Rail blast

Keywords: Tags  Amsted Rail, steel foundry, accident, USW, OSHA, Wayne Luce, Allan McDougall, Jim Snelson Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — As many as 10 Amsted Rail Co. Inc. employees were injured March 7 following an explosion at the Chicago-based company’s Granite City, Ill., foundry, with two men listed in critical condition.

The Granite City Fire Department responded at 8:10 a.m. to reports of an explosion at the facility, with at least two injuries reported at the time, assistant chief Jim Snelson told AMM.

Wayne Luce, vice president of human resources and environmental affairs for Chicago-based parent Amsted Industries Corp., confirmed there was an accident at the facility, saying it occurred in the cleaning and finishing area of the plant. The cause of the explosion had yet to be determined.

The fire department initially sent two ambulances, two fire engines and three staff vehicles. After the first two workers were transported, the fire department received several more reports of injuries, Snelson said. An ambulance company took more patients to Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City, while the fire department transported two additional patients.

"There were no visible signs (of the explosion) to the building," Snelson said, "but the patients had trauma injuries, burn injuries and inhalation."

There were conflicting reports on the number of workers injured in the explosion. Gateway Regional Medical Center said it received a total of 10 patients from Amsted; three were transferred to St. Louis hospitals, two of them by helicopter, while the other seven were treated. Some have since been released, a spokeswoman for the hospital told AMM.

Two men were listed in critical condition at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, a hospital spokeswoman told AMM.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our employees and their families," Luce said. "We have stationed personnel at the hospital to assist them."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) district office in Fairview Heights, Ill., confirmed that inspectors were on site Thursday. "We have an open-ended inspection there today," a district spokesman said. "We received a report of an explosion and responded."

"We can confirm investigators were sent out there," an OSHA spokesman in Chicago said. "There are no details about the accident as of yet. We must try to determine the cause and if there were any (safety) violations."

Luce said Amsted is cooperating fully with OSHA’s investigation.

The United Steelworkers union sent an emergency response team to the plant Thursday, team coordinator Allan McDougall told AMM. The team’s function is to support workplace accident victims and their families and to act as a bridge between the company and families of the injured workers.

USW Local 1063 leaders could not be reached for comment.

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