CSB To Investigate Bethlehem Steel Fire

Feb. 12, 2001
The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)\r\ndispatched a team of seven accident investigators to the site of a\r\nrecent fatal fire at a Bethlehem Steel plant.


The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) dispatched a team of seven accident investigators to the site of a recent fatal fire at a Bethlehem Steel plant.

The fire at the Burns Harbor, Ind., steel mill killed two workers and injured four others, one seriously. The fatalities included one company employee and a contract worker.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of Feb. 2, in conjunction with demolition work on a disused furnace.

According to CSB investigators, maintenance workers were removing a 10-inch valve from a pipe used to supply coke gas fuel to the furnace.

Flammable liquid was unexpectedly released and ignited. The resulting fire caused the deaths and injuries.

CSB concluded that, at the time of the incident, the workers were about 20 feet above ground level, with limited means of escape.

Coke gas is produced from coal by a chemical process of destructive distillation, analogous to the production of charcoal from wood.

The coke gas is used as a fuel, while the carbon-rich solid coke residue is used to produce steel.

CSB said an initial focus of the investigation will be to determine why flammable material was still present in piping that was to undergo maintenance work.

According to CSB spokesman Dr. Andrea Kidd Taylor, "An investigative team was deployed within hours of the event on Friday. The investigators will determine the circumstances underlying this tragedy and report to the board. We will be particularly interested in any similarities to past incidents where flammable releases have occurred during maintenance activities on piping."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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