Injured Worker from Steel Factory Explosion Dies

EPA investigators inspect the blast site at the Sethi Ferro Fabrik steel plant.

3 others flown to Ghana for treatment

One of the seven workers injured from the recent explosion from the Sethi Femo Fabrik steel plant has died, while three others have been flown out of the country for advanced medical treatment.

The deceased who had worked for the company for about three years died from his injuries at the JFK Medical Center but the other three critical patients have been flown to Ghana through chartered Air Ambulance to seek specialized burn treatment at the Korle-bu Medical Center. Korle-bu is known to have one of the top burn centers in the sub-region.

The three include two Liberians, Nathaniel Farsue, Theo Taiklan, and one expatriate, and Hosila Prasad Rajbhar. However, one of the victims, Harishchandra Sahni, has recovered from his wounds and has since been discharged from JFK, while two other victims, Amos Senmie and Sumowu Z. Kekele, are still admitted at the JFK and are receiving treatment. 

The explosion, which occurred in the early morning hours of August 8, 2021, resulted from an unexpected blast in the induction furnace used to melt steel. This unforeseen event took place despite all the safety protocols observed to prevent such occurrence. In a press release, the Management of Sethi Ferro Fabrik steel plant says they are deeply saddened by the recent industrial accident at its facility that resulted in the death of an employee and injured six others.

The management responded swiftly to the incident and immediately the situation was brought under control. However, the blast had already injured seven staff members — four Liberians and three expatriates,” the press statement said. The statement added that the victims were all immediately rushed to the JFK Medical Center for medical treatment, but unfortunately, one of the expatriates, Achchhe Lal Chauhan, who had worked for the company for about three years, died from his injuries.

“The Management stressed that the company is deeply saddened by the death of an employee and by the pain inflicted on the other six workers affected by the accident,” the release said. “The company will remain laser-focused on employing all resources required for the treatment and recovery of the remaining six injured employees. They are expected to make full recovery soon. The Management is keeping the families of the victims abreast of their progress and is standing with them in this difficult situation.”

EPA Gets Involved

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the watchdog responsible for enforcing environmental policy and safety in the country, has declared that the steel manufacturing company will remain closed until it meets certain safety standards before resuming operation.

The EPA Executive Director, Professor Wilson K Tarpeh, attributed the disaster to an accident that he says resulted due to the collapse of a conveyor cable carrying a magnetic bed containing metal scraps into an electric arc furnace holding molten steel that melts at 1500 degrees Celsius. He added that during the accident, no worker had approved aluminized apparel for protection from heat, thereby causing the four Indians and three Liberians to be gravely affected.

The environmental watchdog noted the company has been in compliance with its required environmental standards. However, the EPA has shared the issue of workers’ safety with other agencies responsible to handle such tasks.

“The factory remains closed until remedial measures are instituted; the factory sets up health and safety protocols and ensures that all workers at the factory participate in the daily safety drill and are acquainted with the required safety protocols, molten metal always, wears aluminized apparel (head hood, jacket, aprons, pants, leggings, gloves, etc.), and workers should work for six hours daily to prevent them from the intense heat from the magnetic conveyor.”

The splash, the EPA authorities said, did not cause any environmental hazard because it was not spilled into the air to cause pollution. Rather, it was molten steel that splashed with the effect of staying only within the confines of the factory.

“Work with Government”

Meanwhile, Sethi Ferro Fabrik, in its release, added that over the years, the industrial plant safety staff have worked with government regulators to deploy all the requisite safety measures in order to avoid these kinds of events, “though no risk mitigation measures are 100% guaranteed, as clearly seen in this unfortunate incident.”

The release added that its internal investigation is still going on but preliminary reports and eyewitness accounts indicate that the blast resulted when the crane used to grab and load scrap metals from the ground picked up and loaded scrap metal in the induction furnace. Suddenly there was a blast and boiling molten metal came out of the furnace and spread on the furnace area, which injured nearby working workers.

The Management of Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc. reiterated that the ongoing investigation “will be detailed because it is not only intended to find the root cause of this accident but, at the same time, to identify other potential risks and enhance risk mitigation protocols at the factory so that such unfortunate event does not occur in future.” The Sethi Ferro Fabrik steel plant is the only steel manufacturing plant currently operating in the country. It was dedicated by President George Manneh Weah in 2019. Located in the Monrovia Industrial Park in the old LPRC facility, in Gardnerville, the plant employs over 500 persons including Liberians and expatriates. The plant is currently producing approximately 80 metric tons of steel materials, including steel rods, daily.