Selmet Inc. fined $27,500 for furnace explosion that hurt 2

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Occupational Safety and Health on Wednesday fined Selmet Inc. $27,500 for an 2019 titanium furnace explosion that injured two employees.

The state agency issued the fine for violating job safety rules, calling three of the violations serious, The Albany Democrat-Herald reported.

The incident in August at the Selmet plant southeast of Albany tossed one employee about 12 feet, causing second- and third-degree burns over 69% of his body. It threw another employee about 6 feet into a table, tore a steel door from its hinges and created a hole in the building’s roof.

The OSHA investigation identified the violations as failing to account for employee safety in the layout and design of the foundry and overlooking proper work clothing and equipment.

According to the report, titanium furnace operators John Bauch, Nick Barnett and Kenneth Schunn were working that day in a room with four electrically-powered titanium furnaces. The furnaces melt metal at 3,000 to 3,500 degrees. Water is used to cool the furnaces but can create an explosion if it comes into contact with the titanium.

Bauch was starting a melting process when he saw sparks “raining down” from the top of the furnace. He hit the "abort" button. Schunn was walking to get a communications radio when Bauch’s furnace exploded. Schunn told investigators he dragged Bauch to safety.

Schunn was treated and released from a local hospital. Bauch was transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where he was treated for extensive burns. His current condition is unknown.

The company has 30 days to appeal the proposed fines.

Selmet Inc. manufactures specialty metal items used in the aerospace industry. It employs more than 800 people and has grown significantly since 2012. The company was founded locally but was sold in 2018 to Consolidated Precision Products of Cleveland, Ohio.

Consolidated Precision Products spokesman Richard Legenza said the company doesn't comment on citation specifics.

“The safety of our employees is our highest priority,” he said. “We have fully cooperated with OSHA during its investigation.”