By Thomas PeskeNovember 5, 2013
CRANE, Ind. -- Crane Army Ammunition Activity repeated its commitment to worker safety following a press release by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration of 36 notices of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions from an explosion on March 28, 2013, in the pyrotechnic facility at Crane.
The explosion and fire occurred in two dust collectors in Crane Army's pyrotechnic building, where workers were in the process of cleaning the production area. The explosion forced the access door open, causing the fire and pressure wave to strike the production building. Five workers were taken to Bloomington Hospital for observation and examination and then released that same evening.
"Obviously when an accident occurs, you want to ensure that you truly understand the problems that caused it and eliminate the threat of it happening again," Crane Army Commander Col. Joe Dixon said. "The safety of our workforce has to be our number one priority and it is not something that can be left to chance or luck. Only by encouraging a culture of safety in the workplace and never being complacent about it can we protect our most precious resource, our people."
Crane Army Ammunition Activity follows Army safety regulations for ammunition. It began partnering with OSHA immediately after the explosion occurred in March and had been briefed by OSHA on these findings a month ago. Since then, Crane Army continued its partnership with OSHA on correcting notices.
"We have had an open dialogue with OSHA since and will continue to do so. In fact, we have been working with them for years as we have worked on being a Voluntary Protection Program Star Site. It is vital that we do this to keep our workforce as safe as possible," Dixon said.
Earned in 2010, the Star Status marked, at that time, a first for a Joint Munitions Command site and only the second command in the Army Materiel Command to receive the honor along with Tobyhanna Army Depot. The Star Status reflects the overall commitment to employee safety fostered at Crane.
When awarded, Assistant Secretary for OSHA David Michaels, PhD, MPH, wrote in a letter to Crane Army, "Your qualification for OSHA's premiere recognition program is a testament to the efforts you and your employees have made to develop and implement a VPP-quality safety and health management system."
Although the Star Status does not include the Manufacturing and Engineering Directorate, which includes the pyrotechnic facility, Crane Army has been working with OSHA on implementing changes that would make it compliant.
"As a VPP participant, CAAA continues working with OSHA to bridge the gap between the Department of Army Explosives Safety Regulation and OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard. CAAA has been forthcoming to bring its flare facility operations to VPP status in order to complement its other VPP Star operations," Crane Army Spokesman Tom Peske said.
Crane Army is also working with its higher headquarters, the Joint Munitions Command, on a method of demonstrating compliance with the OSHA's Process Safety Management standard. There are many gray areas to the standards and how they apply to the process, and those are the issues that need to be resolved. Crane Army and JMC are working on combining all regulations and processes that are used into one central document for easier reference.
Ammunition handling and production is inherently dangerous and the safety and well being of Crane Army's employees is important. The damaged area of the pyrotechnical facility is being renovated with improved safety features in mind. Additionally, since the accident in March, CAAA has taken a look at its processes to see where safety improvements can be made. In particular, we are looking at the dust collecting units in other types of production lines to ensure a similar accident will not occur.
Pyrotechnic flare production, which is one part of Crane Army's overall mission or ammunition storage, renovation, production and demilitarization, was temporarily stopped so the building could be repaired and renovated. It is expected to return to full production in November 2013.
Established in October 1977, Crane Army Ammunition Activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure in order to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components. Crane Army maintains up to one third of the DoD's conventional ammunition inventory. The Activity also provides command oversight of Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, Letterkenny Munitions Center, Pa., and Milan Army Ammunition Center, Tenn.