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MSHA News Release No. 99-0806
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: 703-235-1452


Released Friday, August 6, 1999

Investigation into Cause of Blast Continues
MSHA to Hold Public Hearing on Explosion at Kaiser Aluminum Plant

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will conduct a public hearing next month into the cause of the July 5 explosion that injured 21 workers at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Plant in Gramercy, La. Agency investigators will interview workers familiar with plant operations and others with knowledge of events surrounding the explosion.

"Our objective is to find the cause of this explosion and identify corrective actions and strategies that will prevent future occurrences," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Our investigators need information about the sequence of events to determine the answers. Those being called to testify hopefully can provide that important information."

The investigative hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Sept. 8 in the St. James Parish Courthouse located at 5800 LA 44, in Convent, La. The hearing room, in the second floor council chambers, seats approximately 100 people. The hearing is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. MSHA estimates the hearing will take two to three weeks.

Investigators have combed through the debris left by the blast to identify, gather and analyze evidence that will help find the cause of the accident. Laboratory testing and analysis of designated materials from the explosion is being conducted at MSHA's research facility in Pittsburgh, Pa. Investigators also must determine if Kaiser violated any Federal safety regulations designed to protect workers on the job.

All questioning at the hearing will be by an MSHA panel of investigators. Representatives of Kaiser, the workers or any other interested person can submit written questions, suggest areas of inquiry, or recommend possible witnesses for MSHA to consider. The agency will determine whether the suggested questions will be asked or suggested witnesses called. Any witnesses called will be subpoenaed by MSHA. The agency encourages witnesses to review pertinent records and data to refresh their memory before appearing at the hearing.

Upon completion of the investigation, MSHA will issue a detailed report revealing the investigators' conclusions concerning the cause of the accident. That report also will be made available to the public.