Explosion injures six at Beth Steel plant at Sparrows Point Electrical malfunction leads to flash fire

September 03, 1998|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

An explosion in a switching box at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plate mill depot injured six workers last night -- two of them critically -- and officials have closed a portion of the plant to investigate the incident, Baltimore County fire officials said.

One worker suffered burns over 80 percent of his body and the other on half his body, said Capt. Michael Robinson of the fire department.

The flash fire and explosion occurred just before 6 p.m. when there was an electrical malfunction in a 6700-volt switching box during a routine maintenance check, according to company and fire officials.

L Identities of the victims were not available, Robinson said.

All were taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore minutes after the fire.

Ted Baldwin, a spokesman for Bethlehem Steel, said last night the cause of the explosion was under investigation. Also probing the incident will be the county's fire investigation unit and Maryland Occupation Safety and Health (MOSH).

Baldwin said that the explosion caused a flash fire, but that the fire quickly burned itself out.

"When the fire department arrived, they found the fire was out and the workers were treating each other for their injuries," Baldwin said.

The Sparrows Point plant produces hot-rolled and cold-rolled sheets, galvanized sheets and tin mill products.

Baldwin said workers were testing the electrical systems in the building at the time of the accident.

The building was once part of the Sparrows Point Rod Mill, but was renovated about five years ago and is now used to store metal plates that are used in the construction industry, Baldwin said. It is scheduled to be closed later this year, he said.

Stephen Miller, a spokesman for MOSH, which investigates industrial accidents, said that his office would send a crew to the site to investigate the accident today.

He said MOSH had not been alerted to the accident last night, but that Bethlehem Steel has up to eight hours to notify state officials of any accidents that kill or injure three or more workers.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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