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New topic since the other one was getting diluted.

pauleckler asks:

And who is the pipe foundry that was on 60 Minutes (or was it Bill Moyer's Now)? Ghost plants (one in Mississippi, one in NJ) operated with absolute minimum staffing. Inexperienced operators getting killed by equipment with no one around to find them much less help them.

Sounds like this business can be very cut throat.

McWane. In a word: ghastly. The whole industry isn't like that. But McWane takes the cake. It's not minimal staffing or cut-throat business practices. In McWane's case, I really don't know what you'd say is the problem. They've simply been operating the same way for about a century, and it has finally caught up with them. There are similar operations, but not many. The closest thing I can think of is Stillwaters (only platinum mining company in North America).

60 Minutes got it wrong. It wasn't minimal staffing. Inexperience is due to both lack of experience at the management level too, but turnover is the biggest issue (it's a very, very nasty place to work). Plant supervisors simply are not paying attention. It's a total lack of knowledge and/or willingness to follow standard industrial practices. From talking with folks who previously worked there, it doesn't seem like it's a willingness issue either at the current time, but they have a hell of an uphill battle to overcome.

Recently 2 plant managers and an environmental VP just got sent on an all expenses paid trip to a gray bar hotel for secretly dumping waste into a river at night near Birmingham and then forging the EPA reports.

The same plant until very recently had about 6" of water on the floor all the time. The guys on the casting deck had to work in knee boots all day long, rain or shine (and we're talking tropical Alabama rain showers in summer). It was a steam bath to say the least.

This particular plant has two sets of casting machines with a crane mounted on a monorail to deliver molten iron to both of them. During one incident, the monorail actually "split" in half (corrosion and lack of inspection), teetering the crane off to one side about 30+ feet in the air. The casting foreman was screaming over the radio about the fact that he was running out of iron to feed the casting machines. Finally, the maintenance superintendent told the idiot that he wasn't going to be getting any more iron for the rest of the day and at the moment the only concern the crane operator had was whether or not he was going to die today. And how they were going to rescue him.

The Birmingham plant really should be just simply shut down. But there's a sentimental attachment to it because that is where McWane started. So they continue to persist in a losing battle.

McWane is also in trouble in Texas for environmental reasons, but I haven't followed that one as closely.

The Phillipsburg, NJ, plant is in so much trouble that I think they were rated as the most dangerous plant in the U.S. by OSHA. Here at least the major issues aren't environmental (that I know of...). For instance, that plant is in trouble for lock and tag procedures. Getting slapped with penalty for that is something of a joke because they didn't even have the infrastructure installed to do lock & tag...they have to replace a significant portion of their electrical switch gear even to do things safely.

The same plant is the only one left I know of that holds their sand cores in place by using a hammer to drive wooden wedges in. The rest of the plants have a hydraulic jack to do the same thing (safely and with higher production rates). They routinely have guys out for smashed fingers.

The same plant is also in deep trouble for discrimination practices, among other things. Right now, they have officials actively patrolling the plant around the clock looking for trouble in this area.

At the same plant, one of their mechanics was on 24 hour call to be to the plant in 10 minutes if they had a wreck in their annealing oven. His job was to put on the aluminum fire suit, get doused with a water hose for a few minutes, hold his breath (so the air didn't burn his lungs out), run in and physically maneuver pipe around in the middle of an operating oven (at 1400-1800 F) to get it running again. He was the only guy small enough to make it through the access doors, so he has a "safe" job.
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