AERT Awaits OSHA's Investigation of Fatal Fire

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration has not completed its investigation of a fire at an Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies facility that killed a worker July 17.

The conflagration knocked out production at the Springdale facility until Aug. 16, and AERT officials estimated the total loss of production at $7 million.

Insurance companies have advanced AERT $2.5 million. That helped limit the AERT’s third-quarter loss to $1.1 million.

“Fiscally, we are still tallying the effect of the outage,” AERT’s new CEO Tim Morrison, told Arkansas Business. (More from him in this week's Executive Q&A.)

A week after the Springdale fire, there was an explosion in a company silo in Lowell. The silo was later dismantled.

Morrison said a safe work environment is the company’s No. 1 priority.

“Prior to the accident, the team’s efforts to improve had been showing very significant results, including the achievement of several major safety milestones,” Morrison said. “We have redoubled our efforts to improve our safety systems. We have enlisted help from our best experts available to us. We are in the process of installing enhancements to our buildings and equipment to provide additional layers of protection against fires to our associates.”

Morrison said the fire’s impact on the company’s bottom line — and possible fines from OSHA if it determines there were violations — was one thing, but the loss of a member of his company’s team has been the toughest pill to swallow.

“The emotional toll of the accident to the AERT associates and our leadership has been tremendous,” Morrison said. “We are a small company, and all those injured and affected are our friends.”

 

 

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