Molten glass leak at factory will mean short layoff

A leak that developed Tuesday in one of the two furnaces at The Glass Group plant, formerly Flat River Glass Factory, will cause a minor layoff of some workers for a short time, according to company human resources manager Jim Hahn.

Hahn said the plant has nine production lines and the furnace that developed the leak provided molten glass for five of those lines.He indicated that those five lines will probably have to be shut down for what is hoped will be a short period of time.

The leak occurred at about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at the "throat area" of the furnace. The molten glass coming from the furnace had been heated to about 800 degrees, one source said.

"That won't mean much to most people," Hahn said of the leak's location, "only to those who have worked at the plant."

According to Hahn, by the time the leak was totally stopped about two hours later approximately 20 tons of molten glass had poured out of the furnace. Fortunately, he said, crews from the plant had been able to bring the leak under some control within about 30 minutes after it had developed.

The most important news out of the incident, Hahn stressed, is that no one was injured during the incident. A County Ambulance and crew had been dispatched to the scene, a standard procedure any time there is a structure fire call.

Even though the plant has its own fire control team, Hahn said as a precautionary measure the company called for the Park Hills Fire Department to provide backup in the situation. The Joint Communications Center dispatched the call as a "first alarm commercial structure fire" and thus four other fire departments also responded to the call. In actuality, there was no fire, just the spilled molten glass.

One firefighter on the scene called Tuesday's spill "small compared to one" that occurred at the plant several years ago. In that earlier spill, a far greater quantity of molten glass leaked from a furnace. Not only did much of the molten glass in the earlier incident get into the basement of the plant, it also sent sparks though the chimney and gave off a red glow in the night.

"They got this one under control pretty quickly," the firefighter said. "We are just staying around to be available in case they need us."

Once the leak was brought under control, plant employees began draining the furnace of the molten glass. This process took approximately three hours and some fire crews remained on the scene throughout the process for safety reasons.

Hahn said a meeting of plant management was scheduled Tuesday night to confer with The Glass Group owners to determine what steps will be taken now. He said they were evaluating the extent of the problem and would be making a decision as to the best course of action.

It was indicated by Hahn that the furnace in which the leak occurred was scheduled for rehabilitation within the next few months. Once the condition of that furnace is determined, the owners and management will decide what will be done.

The plant employs 570 people, one of the largest private employers in St. Francois County, and Hahn hopes all of the workers will be back on the job in a relatively short time. The plant manufactures glass containers for a wide variety of commercial products and has been in business for more than 30 years.

600450 Molten glass leak at factory will mean short layoff
Date: 23 September 2004

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