UPDATE: Federal investigators gathering information on Fulton plant explosion


FULTON - The Mueller Copper Tube plant where a worker was killed and three others injured in an explosion on Wednesday was charged with 10 serious safety violations last year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on May 29, 2008, fined the company $25,425. And in 2002, the company paid $9,700 after being initially charged with 11 serious violations.

The plant is owned by Mueller Industries, which is based in Memphis. John Hansen, the company's president of manufacturing operations, issued a statement Thursday morning about the apparent accident at the plant.

He said the fire apparently was the result of a maintenance accident, and production has been suspended during the investigation and damage assessment.

However, contacted later in the day by the Daily Journal, Hansen declined to comment further.

"That's all we're prepared to make public at this time," he said.

Last November, the company's copper tube mill in Great Britain suffered a fire. In the company's annual report, company Chairman Harvey Kapp wrote "the loss was covered by insurance. We are considering various alternatives, including new and more efficient technologies, before reinvesting in this operation."

Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson, said an OSHA investigator was in Fulton.

Phillip Cason Hosch of Sulligent, Ala., was killed in the explosion on Wednesday, marking the third death at the Fulton facility since April of last year. One of the three injured employees was identified as Joel Robinson. Names of the other two were not released.

Last September, a roofing contractor fell after stepping through the roof of the plant. Five months earlier, a man from Golden died when his safety harness got caught in machinery while he was in the air.

Mueller operations in other states also have been hit with safety and health violations, according to OSHA records.

Its Covington, Tenn., plant, Mueller Fittings Co., has been fined seven times for $16,000 since 1995. In 2006, it paid $7,200 for two serious violations. Two years earlier, it was fined $1,800 for another serious violation.

The company's Lincoln Brass facilities in Jacksboro and Waynesboro, Tenn., have paid more than $3,100 in fines since 2004.

When asked to comment about Mueller's safety record, Hansen said, "We're not going to do that today."

Mueller, which posted sales of nearly $2.6 billion last year, has more than 20 facilities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

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