DES MOINES, Iowa (March 22, 2000)—A state safety and health agency has fined Titan International Inc. $150,000 for violations related to a chemical fire that killed a truck driver outside the company´s Des Moines tire plant.
But the Quincy, Ill.-based agricultural and construction tire and wheel maker will appeal the decision, saying that without the quick actions of its employees, the fire could have killed more people and severely damaged the facility.
Douglas Oswald, 25, of Plainfield, Ill., was killed Nov. 24 in a blaze that started in an outside receiving area at the Titan plant. Mr. Oswald was delivering heptane, a solvent chemical, to the facility at the time, and the liquid was subsequently spilled into East Market Street and ignited by a passing vehicle, according to local fire reports.
The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Bureau cited Titan March 1 for several violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The transgressions named by the IOSH include:
*failing to coordinate with Mr. Oswald during the off-loading of the chemical;
*failing to have proper locks attached to the loading mechanism at the plant;
*failing to have an adequate spill containment system in the receiving area;
*willfully failing to implement an emergency response plan; and
*willfully failing to develop and utilize procedures for locking out the heptane piping system inside the plant and in the receiving area.
Titan will appeal the citation and fines, especially because the accident could have been even worse, said company President and CEO Maurice Taylor Jr.
Mr. Taylor said the Titan foreman on the site reacted quickly by turning off the valve on the truck after seeing the spill; attempting to alert Mr. Oswald, who was inside the truck; and helping to evacuate the plant.
"We do have a safety plan, and that´s to evacuate," Mr. Taylor said. "We did that, and if our foreman hadn´t done what he did, more people would have died and our plant burnt down."
If the company had disciplined its people for doing something wrong, he said, IOSH wouldn´t have levied the fines it did.
"If we were in war, they would have put a medal on (the foreman)," Mr. Taylor said. "They should be thanking him for what he did, but instead they say it was a willful violation."
John Peno, president of United Steelworkers Local 164, which has been striking at Titan since May 1998, said the union expected the citations to be handed down but "it brings us no joy."
The USWA has been critical of Titan´s safety and health practices, both while its members previously were working inside company plants and since strikes began in Des Moines and the firm´s Natchez, Miss., tire facilities. As for the appeal, Mr. Peno said he wasn´t surprised.
"He appeals everything," he said, referring to Mr. Taylor. ©