An explosion at a steel mill in Pueblo, Colorado injured eight workers. According to Local 2102, the union that represents workers at the EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel plant, seven people were sent to the hospital immediately after the incident and an additional worker went in for treatment later. Of those at the hospital, two were sent to the ICU while one was taken to a Denver burn unit. The other five workers were treated for injuries and released.
Reports indicate that the blast occurred inside an electric arc furnace at approximately 5 p.m. on May 29. When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found 130 tons of steel inside the mill’s furnace at max temperature. They had to wait for the molten metal to cool down before they were able to handle the situation. According to Assistant Fire Chief Keith Miller, the blast started fires on three levels of the steel plant. He referred to the situation as a “rare event.”
According to an official from the plant, the company believes that the explosion was triggered after water made its way into the electric furnace. This caused pressure to build until the unit erupted.
Currently, investigators are at the scene of the accident to determine what triggered the accident.
“OSHA has already been on-site and has commenced their investigation. We have established a command center and operations, maintenance and engineering are working collectively to determine the precise cause of the explosion, assess damage and develop a timetable for repairs,” Davide Kenney, a communication consultant for EVRAZ, commented.
EVRAZ Has a History of OSHA Violations
EVRAZ is a multinational steel production and mining company that’s headquartered in London, England. In addition to its Pueblo location, the company operates an additional steel plant in Portland, Oregon.
One report has uncovered a history of OSHA violations at the EVRAZ Pueblo steel plant. The company was cited during a 2016 safety inspection.
“EVRAZ needs to involve their workers in identifying and correcting hazardous conditions to ensure more effective safety and health management systems,” said David Nelson, an OSHA director in Englewood, Colorado, during the investigation. “EVRAZ needs to fix these hazards before someone is injured or worse.”
Early Warnings Often Exist Before Serious Industrial Accidents
In response to the reports of its OSHA violations, EVRAZ asserted that the safety violations were for an area of the plant that’s unrelated to the furnace that recently exploded. Yet, our industrial accident lawyers have seen this excuse used over and over by companies who fail to maintain their facilities. We've repeatedly seen companies with a history of neglecting safety doing so until something drastic—such as an explosion—occurs. Often, citations for mismanagement in one part of a facility can be an indicator that things aren't right in other parts of it.
In fact, we’ve handled cases where companies ignored problems until they triggered serious accidents. The Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana exploded in 2013, killing two men and injuring more than 100 workers. The blast was triggered by a maintenance issue that would’ve cost less than five dollars to remedy. Despite this, officials from the company ignored recommendations to fix the problem for years.
Multiple workers turned to our plant explosion lawyers for help after the accident. After Williams refused to treat our clients fairly, we were forced to take three cases to trial. After securing a $15.5 million verdict in the first trial and an $18.5 million verdict in the second, Williams called us before the third trial began. The result was the largest settlement in the state’s history for a plant explosion.
While the investigation into the Pueblo steel plant explosion and fire is ongoing, this accident shares early characteristics of past events. Too often, companies do the bare minimum until the worst-case scenario occurs. When they do this, they should be held accountable.
Our Pueblo steel mill accident lawyers will continue to follow this story as investigators determine what happened before the explosion.