Kentucky state authorities are investigating the death of a Harsco Metals employee and the injury of four others in the explosion of a large, heavy-equipment tire they were changing at a steel plant.
The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 23) at Gallatin Steel Inc., in Ghent, KY. All five workers were employees of Harsco Metals, a contractor that processes slag at the facility. Harsco Metals is a division of Harsco Corp., based in Camp Hill, PA.
Robin Kelley, 48, of Madison, IN, perished in the accident. Authorities said that Kelley and four other employees were changing a tire that was 6 to 7 feet tall and inflated to about 100 psi when the tire burst, injuring all five simultaneously.
Explosion ‘Propelled’ Worker
“The explosion caused [Kelley] to be propelled into other objects in the room,” said Trooper Michael Webb of the Kentucky State Police, which is leading the non-criminal investigation.
Site manager David Davanzati, 50, of Louisville, KY, was seriously injured in the accident. He was flown to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated and released after several days.
The other three Harsco employees at the scene—Jeffrey Huff, 51, of Lexington, IN; Thomas Gayle, 53, of Madison, IN; and Andy Baumgartner, 53, of Turners Station, KY—were treated at an area hospital for undisclosed injuries and released.
Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Dick Brown said the rim of the tire had blown into Kelley as the workers inflated it.
“If they’re not working on them properly and under correct workplace procedures, it can be dangerous,” said Brown.
Kentucky is one of 18 states with its own OSHA. The agency is investigating whether any unsafe work conditions, procedures or practices may have contributed to the accident, said Brown. It is not currently investigating the actual cause of the explosion.
Webb said the tire burst but did not disintegrate. He said Kelley died from blunt force trauma, but he declined to provide details until the investigation is complete and the cause of the accident determined. That will require an autopsy, videotaping of the scene, and other efforts over the next several weeks, he said.
One local published report said the workers were getting ready to repair a leak on a loader tire. They pulled the loader in the maintenance shop, to cut the chains off the wheel, so the wheel could be changed. In the process of cutting the chains off, the tire exploded, the report said. Another report cited the heat used to fit the tire’s rim onto the machine as the cause of the explosion.
Harsco Corp. also had investigators on the scene to conduct its own probe.
Harsco spokesman Kenneth Julian said, “The details of the incident are currently under investigation and … the entire Harsco family extends its sympathy to the family of our lost colleague and to those injured in the incident.”
Harsco Metals has a contract with Gallatin Steel and North American Stainless in Ghent, KY, to process steel byproducts, such as steel slag, for the two steel mills, Julian told a reporter.