DES MOINES, Iowa (May 5, 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 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. the liquid was subsequently spilled into the 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.
Titan President and CEO Maurice Taylor Jr. said the company 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.
"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.