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MSHA News Release No. 2000-1214
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452


 Released Thursday, December 14, 2000

KAISER, MSHA AGREE TO $513,000 SETTLEMENT WITH NEW SAFETY MEASURES

   Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. will pay $513,000 in civil penalties under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration to settle violations cited in the wake of an explosion at its Gramercy, La., plant last year. The company also agreed to adopt tough new safety standards that are in line with industry standards. The new standards go beyond MSHA's requirements.

   "American workers have a fundamental right to a safe and healthful workplace," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "This agreement goes a long way towards protecting workers at the Gramercy plant from similar accidents in the future."

   The accident occurred on July 5, 1999 when excessive pressure built up in several large processing tanks, causing an explosion that devastated the plant and injured 29 workers. MSHA conducted an investigation and issued citations for multiple violations of federal safety regulations.

   "As a result of this agreement, Kaiser will pay $513,000 – the largest civil penalty ever paid to MSHA for a non-fatal accident," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

   In addition to the civil penalty, two Kaiser officials will each pay $12,500 for violations they had reason to know existed. A digestion supervisor was cited for failing to insure that the digestion pressure vessels were operated within design capacity, and the digestion superintendent was cited for an inadequate safety examination of the area in the month before the explosion.

   Under the settlement, Kaiser will operate its Gramercy plant in accordance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. Compliance with these industry consensus standards is not mandatory in Louisiana.

   In addition, representatives of Kaiser and the United Steel Workers of America,will perform a comprehensive safety and health audit of the Gramercy operation at least semi-annually, and report results to Kaiser management and the union. For each safety or health problem identified in the audit, Kaiser will specify how and when the hazard will be abated.

   The settlement agreement between MSHA and Kaiser was approved by Administrative Law Judge Gary Melick of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission on Dec. 13, 2000. The full text of the settlement agreement appears on MSHA's Web site at www.msha.gov.

Copies are available in two formats. Use the links below to obtain copies.