Alcoa incident still under investigation

Alcoa incident still under investigation

Postby pfpcnews » Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:20 pm

Alcoa incident still under investigation

Victoria Advocate - June 24, 2007


POINT COMFORT - Little was known on Saturday about what happened early Friday when two Alcoa employees came in contact with sodium hydroxide and were burned.

This is the second time in less than two weeks, and the third time this year, that employees have been injured at the plant when they have come in contact with chemicals.

On Friday, the employees came in contact with sodium hydroxide while changing filters in the press building, Dirk Philpott, a spokesman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Friday afternoon.

As a result of the incident, one person was taken to an area hospital with chemical burns on a foot and was treated and released, according to a news release from the plant Friday. The other was taken by helicopter to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston with chemical burns to the lower body, according to the release. The condition of the second person was not known Saturday.

On June 13 seven employees - six plant workers and a contractor - were sent to two hospitals after being exposed to hydrogen fluoride. Two were flown to UTMB and the rest went to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria. All have since been released from the hospital.

On Jan. 2, John Dorton, 37, of Port Lavaca died after inhaling hydrogen fluoride gas in the same part of the plant as the June 13 incident, according to news accounts.

"They were in different parts of the plant, so they are two separate events," said Michael Wright, director of the Health, Safety and Environment Department for the United Steel Workers Union. "Whether they had common causes is yet to be determined."

An investigation by the United Steel Workers Union is under way, he said Saturday.

"We learned about the incident shortly after it happened," he said, noting that the investigation began immediately after the notification. "There are people from the local union that are working on the investigation, and they're working with somebody from the International Health and Safety Department from Pittsburgh."

Wright said he could not comment on the cause until the investigation is complete.

However, Gary Hubbard, director of public affairs for the United Steel Workers Union, said some of the causes of the accident could include "more overtime being worked in a lot of plants. Employers don't like to hire, so you have what we call 'a manning situation' - meaning short on staff to run a large facility and people have to work longer hours ... so that usually is the direct reason that something is a problem."

The Mine Safety and Health Administration and Alcoa are also investigating the accident.

An Alcoa representative could not be reached for comment at the time of press.

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