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Explosion and fire damage La Habra plant and injure 11 workers


Many jobs have potential hazards that can injure or kill a worker. Most of them are so obvious that workers can easily avoid them. Some, however, may only seem innocuous or nonthreatening when in reality they can be highly dangerous. Dust and lint are good examples. If left unchecked, either can compromise the safety of workers.

A La Habra company found this out firsthand recently when an explosion tore through its plant, injuring numerous employees. According to a preliminary investigation by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the explosion at the Gorilla's Chrome Inc. plant and subsequent blaze was caused by a dust buildup in the metal-polishing plant's overhead ventilation system. Around 30 workers were inside when the blast happened. More than 50 firefighters needed 40 minutes to contain the blaze.

Many employees suffered smoke inhalation and 11 sustained injuries. Two workers were critically burned and will have to undergo skin grafts and other treatment when their conditions stabilize. Damages are estimated at $1.5 million. The company plates and polishes metal, including car wheels.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation began immediately to determine if safety violations contributed to the accident. The company was cited by OSHA in 2011 for seven violations. The infractions ranged from lack of monitoring worker exposure to toxic airborne chemicals to lack of employee training with dangerous materials. The company paid almost $2,000 in fines.

Workplace accidents will happen in unsafe work environments sooner or later. Workers who sustain injuries or illnesses can apply for workers' compensation benefits to help them with medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: Las Vegas Sun, "11 hurt in explosion at Los Angeles-area industrial building," April 29, 2014

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