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Accident Burns 7 at Site of OSHA Critic

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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A foundry owner critical of federal health and safety regulations is now dealing with a horrific workplace accident that sprayed his workers with molten metal.

Lance Johnson, whose family has run Johnson Brass & Machine Foundry Inc. (JBM) since 1905, complained to the Wall Street Journal in 2012 that safety enforcement by the Obama Administration was hurting his business.

"I've never been audited by more government agencies in my life than I have under Obama," Johnson said in an article on the eve of the U.S. presidential election.

'More Jobs'

Johnson, president of the company since 1993, said he had spent "well into the six figures" to address workplace hazards cited in inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Johnson Brass & Machinery (aka Johnson Centrifugal Technology) calls itself "the most sophisticated centrifugal castings and formings foundry in the United States."

"I would have spent that on more equipment," Johnson told the paper. "That would have created more jobs down the line."

His statements echoed those of many other business owners who were then supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in part because of President Obama's regulatory enforcement policies.

7 Injured

On Monday (May 19), Johnson's plant in Saukville, WI, was the scene of a "catastrophic" machinery failure that spewed molten metal around the area, burning seven workers and sending others fleeing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The accident apparently occurred while the brass was being poured into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins about 450 revolutions per minute, and the brass had been heated to 2,100 degrees, Saukville Fire Chief Gilly Schultz told the Journal Sentinel.

The accident also caused what reports called "a small fire" at the company, which is also known as Johnson Centrifugal Technology (JCT).

At least four workers were reportedly being treated at burn centers later, and the rest were being treated at hospitals, reports said. No update on their conditions was available Friday (May 23).

'Better Quality at a Lower Cost'

The company bills itself as "the most sophisticated centrifugal castings and formings foundry in the United States."

JCT LanceJohnson

The family-owned company was founded in 1905. Lance Johnson, the fourth president, complained publicly in 2012 about what he called overly aggressive safety standards enforcement by the Obama Administration.

Its website says JCT provides copper, cast and wrought aluminum, Monel, nickel, silver, stainless steel and other metal components using a vertical centrifugal cast process "of equal or better quality at a lower cost than the alternative process." The company's products are distributed internationally to the power generation, hydropower, naval shipping and other industries.

Local authorities originally reported an explosion at the site, but police said later that no explosion had occurred.

OSHA was investigating the accident.

OSHA Record

A check of OSHA records Friday showed that JBM/JCT was inspected twice in 2011 and once in 2010. An inspection on Jan. 11, 2011, resulted in 12 citations for health and safety violations.

The health citations in that case originated as two serious and three other-than-serious, with fines totaling $5,508. The case was settled as one serious violation (for lead exposure) and four other-than-serious violations, with a fine of $1,800.


Seven workers were burned by molten brass May 19 when a centrifuge failed  at Johnson Brass & Machine Foundry Inc., in Saukville, WI.

Three serious and four other-than-serious safety violations carrying $9,638 in fines were eventually settled with a $5,015 fine. Two of the serious violations involved lockout/tagout hazards; the third involved requirements for all machines.

'Deeply Saddened'

In a statement released after Monday's accident, Johnson said: "For more than one hundred years, my family has taken great pride in our safety record and our close relationship with our employees."

"As the fourth president of this family-owned business, I can say we are all deeply saddened by the accident at our plant."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Certifications and standards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Lead; Manufacturing Plant; Metals; OSHA

Comment from Jesse Wilkinson, (5/27/2014, 7:21 AM)

When did PaintSquare become big Obama supporters? Maybe you should publish something in an industry that isn't the target of every OSHA and EPA regulation that can be dreamed up. I will be unsubscribing from comrade Obama's PaintSquare. Thank you.

Comment from David Johnson, (5/27/2014, 9:43 AM)

The tone of this article is "I told you so"..... This is a good manufacturing company with an accident and people injured. NO ONE wants an accident to happen. I wonder what the Feds would find if they audited their own facilities.

Comment from Mark Anater, (5/27/2014, 11:58 AM)

As soon as I saw this article, I knew there would be complaints that it was pro-regulation advocacy masquerading as news. Small business owners really don't like being told what to do, even if they are clearly in the wrong. It explains why Mr. Johnson was so vocal in his anti-Obama tirade in the WSJ. It's ironic, and quite tragic, that his employees were so horribly injured a couple of years later in a safety incident. One may have nothing to do with the other, but the first order of business should be to do a thorough investigation and take steps to make sure it never happens again, and yes, it will require a report to OSHA.

Comment from Quentin Smith, (5/28/2014, 6:26 AM)

Since when are speeders not angry at the police when they get caught. And of course the governor is most at fault.

Comment from William Gusnard, (5/28/2014, 7:52 AM)

How about they go to the Mobile and Pascacula ship yards which do government work totally. I am sure that they will find tons of OSHA violations if they inspected one. But these are government contractors who make money off Obama. Lots of products that I use to paint equipment and pipe cannot always be used based on where the manufacturing is. It makes my job even harder to try to figure out the different regulations of each state much less add OSHA on top of it. Don't get me wrong - SAFETY IS JOB ONE. But I got written up by just climbing a ladder to read a pressure gauge. I was on the seventh rung of the ladder and did not have on a safety harness nor did I tie off before reading the gauge. It would have taken over an hour to get into and out of the rig plus the additional hazards of climbing a ladder with the lanyards drooping off the belt.

Comment from Bill Jenkins, (5/28/2014, 9:30 AM)

I would have liked it if the article focused on the accident and the cause so that other could learn from it. Accidents cost everyone and being in busniness for over 100 years with a good safety record doesn't sound like a business that is only out for more profit at the expense of their employee's lives. The tone of this article certainly does have a pro-Obama ring to it; like Mr. Johnson said, an "I told you so" tone. Did OSHA start paying more attention to businesses in general under the present administration? Have they drastically increased the number of inspections they conduct across the board or did they shift to doing more inspections to the present administration's political foes? I don't know the answer and this article didn't enlighten.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (5/28/2014, 10:03 AM)

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Regarding the cause of the accident, that remains under investigation, so no additional information is available. Regarding enforcement, the Obama administration added about 100 new compliance officers early in its first term and shifted some existing resources and personnel from other areas into enforcement. There has been no indication that the administration is targeting "political foes." Currently, OSHA has about 2,200 inspectors for more than 8 million worksites, which the agency says translates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers. For more information on budgets, fatalities and enforcement, see

Comment from David Johnson, (5/28/2014, 10:18 AM)

I’ld like to add something else. I’m for OSHA. Their rules keep people from getting hurt and help provide some dignity in the workplace. But we can all agree these rules costs in both time and money. Anyone not agree with that? that we all agree on that...why do we allow foreign companies who do NOT have any OSHA regulations (or EPA, or Worker's Comp, etc...) for that matter access to our marketplace to compete with our own companies? This gives them a serious cost advantage. Why is there no tariffs placed on these companies? All human live is sacred. Do we agree on that? Is a man's life worth less because he is in China? Or India? Do we really believe ALL men are created equal? We need to have OSHA teach these countries how to do it safely. No one is better to that than the USA. If these other companies do not comply, then a cost needs to be added to their products in the form of a tariff. EPA regulations....same thing. If they're dirty, place a tariff on them. It is global warming...right? Why do impose rules upon ourselves that we don't require our competitors to abide by the same? This is madness and has to stop.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/29/2014, 8:31 AM)

Does complying with OSHA regulations cost money? Sure. However, does it really cost more than the lost time, lost limbs and lost lives of an unregulated, unsafe work environment? I'm pretty darn sure the medical expenses of the 7 burned employees will be "well into the 6 figures" - if not into 7 figures. How many of these workers are now disfigured or disabled? Since lead exposure violations were found a few years ago, were exposed employees all tested for blood lead levels?

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