Fumes sicken workers at Lehigh cement plant

September 02, 1994|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

Two employees of Lehigh Portland Cement Co. were taken to Carroll County General Hospital after they were sickened by fumes at the Union Bridge plant yesterday.

The men said they had dizziness and severe headaches, apparently brought on by incomplete combustion of fuel during a kiln-preheating procedure, company officials said.

The men, from the company's electrical maintenance and repair division, became ill after going into the area of the No. 4 kiln about 10 a.m., the officials said.

Emergency equipment was dispatched to the cement plant when one employee went to the area and suffered severe headaches. His supervisor went to the same area a short time later and was similarly affected, apparently by the incomplete burning of fuel oil, they said.

The hazardous materials unit from Fort Detrick, Frederick County; four medic units and fire equipment from Union Bridge and New Windsor; and a technician trained in handling hazardous materials from Westminster were sent to the plant.

Two units from the Maryland Department of the Environment were also called.

Technicians from Fort Detrick dressed in protective gear to enter the area where the workers suffered from the fumes. They performed air-quality tests but found nothing.

Company officials said they had shut off the fuel to the preburners and opened air dampers in the area after the workers became ill. They also had everyone leave the kiln control area, according to John Jones, assistant plant manager.

A black residue covered the surface of desks and equipment in the kiln control area when employees arrived for work yesterday morning, investigators were told.

Mr. Jones said the men taken to the hospital were electrician Peter Neumann and his supervisor, Bernard Clem. Both were released from the hospital after being examined, according to a spokeswoman at Carroll County General.

Jim Harris, president of the company union, said the workers have been asking Lehigh Cement to place air-quality monitors around the plant to prevent incidents such as yesterday's. There are none at the plant at this time, he said.

This was the fourth incident this year in which employees were affected by gases that could have been detected by monitors, Mr. Harris said.

He said the union has been seeking additional meetings and sharing of information, particularly on the chemicals contained in waste oils burned to heat the kilns. He said the information should be given to the members of the joint company and union health and safety committee to protect the workers.

Mr. Jones said the men who suffered from the fumes were seen first by a company doctor at the plant, who ordered them to be taken to the hospital for an examination.

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