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Napoleon junk yard cited for fatal explosion

Editor’s Note: Updated June 14 with statement from Mercy Health.

NAPOLEON — A Napoleon junk yard was fined $75,016 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations associated with a Nov. 9 explosion that killed a worker.

The safety administration also announced fines totaling $72,061 against Mercy Health pursuant to a Nov. 6 inspection at its St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo during which employees were found to be exposed to safety hazards while working around a garbage compactor and to have inadequate safety gear while cleaning up material that leaked from a disposal bin.

Mercy Health has settled that matter, which was called to OSHA’s attention by an employee complaint, agency staff said.

Hogrefe Auto Parts of Napoleon, however, has contested its citations, as have two of three other firms for which OSHA recently announced citations and proposed fines.

Jeffrey Keehn of Napoleon was killed in the Nov. 9 incident at Hogrefe on East Riverview Avenue that, based on the OSHA citations, occurred when he used an oxygen torch to cut into the fuel tank of a junked vehicle that still contained gasoline.

The resulting explosion and fire consumed several junked vehicles at the facility, another one of which also exploded in the blaze.

The OSHA citation, issued April 30, found Hogrefe in violation of 11 workplace safety regulations, most of which were directly related to the accident. They included failure to protect employees from fire hazards, inadequate provision of fire extinguishing equipment, inadequate employee training in the use of propane-oxygen torches, and inadequate chemical hazard training.

Seven of the nine citations issued May 1 to Mercy Health, meanwhile, involved issues related to a San-I-Pack compactor at St. Vincent. OSHA inspectors said the hospital did not have adequate training or safety procedures in place for employees to enter the compactor without being exposed to crushing hazards.

Those hazards include the possibility that the compactor’s ram could be energized while employees were inside, or reaching inside, the compactor.

OSHA also found employees cleaning an area beneath a disposal bin, “using shovels to scoop up materials and liquids that leak out,” were exposed to “unknown substances that may contain infectious material,” and that Mercy Health had failed to respond properly to an employee request for required injury and illness records.

“Mercy Health is committed to the safety of all employees and patients,” Erica Blake, a company spokesman, said regarding the matter. “As such, we have worked with OSHA to address their concerns and believe we are now in compliance with their standards.”

Attempts to reach someone at Hogrefe Auto Parts were unsuccessful.

The other citations involve:

● LM Trim Carpentry Inc. of Garrettsville, Ohio, for which OSHA found inadequate eye protection and fall-prevention measures at a Sylvania Township construction site on April 4. The absence of proper means to prevent falls was declared a repeat violation based on previous citations against LM Trim in 2015 and 2017 in Medina and Avon, Ohio, respectively, and accounted for $25,868 of the $28,307 in proposed fines. LM has contested the citations.

● Nox US LLC of Fostoria, which OSHA accuses of failing to provide adequate safety measures while employees do maintenance work on a die cutter. Nox has contested the citations and $18,478 in proposed fines stemming from the Jan. 30 inspection.

● Alex Products Inc. of Paulding, Ohio, for which OSHA issued six citations, five involving safety and training matters associated with a wire draw machine that partially amputated an employee’s finger on March 6. The other citation concerned evaluation and follow-up for employees exposed to the injured employee’s blood. Alex has settled the case, for which fines were assessed at $54,879.

Contact David Patch at dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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