Federal safety regulators cited BAE Systems for numerous “serious” violations at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, Virginia, after a June 2018 flash fire that erupted in the facility killed one BAE employee and injured two others.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the deadly fire but did not publish its findings. The Roanoke Times obtained the OSHA report from the U.S. Department of Labor after another fire broke out on June 6, leaving one worker with burn injuries and three firefighters with smoke-inhalation injuries.

The ammunition plant, also known as the Radford Arsenal, is the main ammunition and explosives manufacturing facility operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. The DOD contracted BAE to manage operations at the sprawling facility, which occupies thousands of acres in southwestern Virginia.

On June 11, last year, a flash fire erupted in part of the ammunition plant and injured three BAE employees. Two of the workers, Andrew Goad and Travis Mitchell, suffered critical burn injuries in the workplace accident. Mr. Goad, 42, died a week later of his injuries.

According to the Roanoke Times, BAE says that while the exact cause of the deadly fire hasn’t been determined, it likely stemmed from a unique set of conditions. However, last year, plant official Charles Saks told Roanoke, Virginia’s WDBJ Channel 7 that “nitrocellulose material in the drying process combusted and caused a flash fire.”

OSHA led its own investigation of the accident and nabbed the Radford Army Ammunition plant for 10 serious violations, many of which involved improper air-drying processes that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of workers at the facility. Most of the violations resulted in the maximum fine of $12,934 for a serious violation, with the total penalties amounting to $112,711. BAE negotiated the fines down to about $83,000.

Among the violations OSHA cited BAE for were:

Damaged air-drying fans that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards; improper or inadequate fall protection; dangerous air-drying hazards in the manufacturing process; an improperly trained group leader for the plant’s air-drying facility; improper safety suits for employees exposed to highly volatile propellant and other hazards; use of personal protective equipment that wasn’t designed for the work being performed; multiple problems with respirators given to employees; and other violations.

In addition to its poor safety record, the BAE-managed Radford Arsenal is also known as the biggest polluter in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. State government records showed that the facility produced 12.1 million tons of toxic release inventory chemicals consisting mainly of nitrates in 2016 — more than a third of all on-site chemical releases from manufacturing facilities statewide.

Thousands of workers suffer serious injuries or are killed on the job as a result of defective industrial products every year. In fact, many times when our lawyers are investigating a worker’s compensation case, they discover a defective industrial product is to blame. The importance of examining third party claims when examining workers’ compensation claims is extremely important to the client. All common law damages, past/future pain and suffering, past/future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, lost income and punitive damages are recoverable. Additionally, spouses of injured employees can file loss of services or consortium claims. This, of course, is not possible under workers’ compensation. For more information, contact Kendall Dunson in our Products Liability Section.

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