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The Radford Army Ammunition Plant is visible from across the New River with Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm in the foreground.

The Radford Army Ammunition Plant was cited by federal safety regulators for numerous “serious” violations following a flash fire that left one worker dead and two seriously injured last year.

The Roanoke Times requested the report from the U.S. Department of Labor following another fire at the arsenal on June 6. It occurred almost a year after the June 11, 2018, deadly accident, and less than an hour after Lt. Col. James Scott turned over command of the plant to Lt. Col. Anthony Kazor.

BAE Systems, a private company that contracts with the Army to make the propellant produced at the plant, employed all three of the men involved in the 2018 incident. Andrew Goad, 42, of Dublin, died less than a week after the incident from burn-related injuries. The other two men who sustained injuries were Dakota Grimmett and Travis Mitchell.

BAE spokesperson Chris Finley wrote in an email last week that the company’s investigation team finished its report on the incident earlier this year but it has yet to be published and will not be available to the public when it is finalized.

“BAE Systems cannot publicly release the documents because they contain proprietary information. However, the investigation concluded that while the exact cause of the accident cannot be determined, it likely resulted from a unique set of conditions, and in addition to other measures, processes were modified to prevent future occurrences,” he wrote.

A report from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration of an investigation that began two days after the fire was released on Dec. 10, citing multiple violations and recommending $112,711 in penalties be paid by the arsenal.

OSHA automatically investigates any instances that result in workplace fatalities.

The following is a list of violations OSHA deemed likely to cause death or serious physical harm to arsenal employees. Many violations took place in the building where the accident occurred:

  • Screen tears inside the air drying tanks were not recognized and repaired, exposing employees to potential fire and explosion hazards. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • An employee working over a tank did not have protection from falling into a three-foot-wide, six-foot-deep hole. A $7,391 penalty was recommended.
  • Air drying hazards were not followed or addressed, such as sensitivity to friction, shock and impact. And wooden push-down paddles were used to remove residual propellant from air dry tanks. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • Written instructions on how to use wooden push-down paddles to remove residual propellant from air dry tanks was not available to employees. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • An employee designated as a group leader in the air drying facility did not receive proper training. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • Employees were not given the proper suits needed when dealing with propellant that reacts violently to friction, shock, impact and electrostatic discharge. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • Personal protective equipment were not designed and constructed for the work being performed. A $12,934 penalty was recommended.
  • The employer did not evaluate the respiratory hazards in the workplace. A $9,239 penalty was recommended.
  • The employer did not provide a medical evaluation to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator before the employee was required to use it in the workplace. A $7,391 penalty was recommended.
  • Employee(s) using tight-fitting facepiece respirators were not fit-tested prior to initial use of the respirator. A $11,086 penalty was recommended.

Finley wrote in an email that BAE shared its findings with OSHA.

“We provided the results and conclusions of the investigation to the Army and OSHA, who evaluated it as part of their own investigative efforts. BAE Systems worked with the Army and OSHA to implement all of the improvements from the various investigations that included improvements to equipment, procedures, and training. OSHA also issued citations to the company and BAE Systems paid more than $80,000 as part of a final agreement. OSHA endorsed the procedural modifications implemented by the company while closing out their report,” he wrote.

Finley wrote that it was not a conflict of interest for BAE to conduct its own investigation, because many other agencies were also involved in the process. All of the other teams involved in the investigation besides OSHA and BAE were affiliated with the army, which oversees the arsenal’s operations.

The Department of Labor has yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request verifying the arsenal’s account of its reaction to the OSHA report.

Finley gave an updateabout the status of those injured in the most recent fire at the arsenal.

“All individuals were released from the hospital on the same date of the incident that occurred at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant on June 6. We continue working with the Army and the relevant authorities to carry out a thorough investigation to determine the cause,” he wrote.

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Sam Wall covers Pulaski, Radford and Radford University.

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