Photo by B.C. Willard

Flames were shooting from the Putnam County plant following a May 13 explosion.

 

BANCROFT, W.Va. — Twelve workers at a Putnam County plant were given severance packages Wednesday after a decision by Airgas to no longer operate the facility.

Airgas Communications Manager Sarah Stockton-Brown said the company decided to close the plant near Bancroft after a review of the plant following a May explosion.

“Occasionally we have to make changes in our operations after these reviews. The facility was reviewed after limited capacity following the May event. This is not a direct result of that event, but the shutdown made it clear we were not operating at peak efficiency there,” Stockton-Brown said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued four serious violations earlier this month in connection with the May 13 explosion that occurred in a concrete cylinder storage bunker. Two workers suffered burn injuries. The fire sparked as the workers were releasing acetylene from some of the containers.

Airgas has officially contested the citations. There could be a hearing before the OSHA Review Commission sometime in the future. There also still could be a formal settlement.

Stockton-Brown said since the explosion the company has been sending cylinders to be refilled at alternate Airgas locations and the process has gone smoothly.

“The event accelerated the evaluation of the facility and made it clear there was a lesser need for that plant,” she said. “It would be more efficient from a cost perspective to no longer operate that facility.”

 

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