ELKHART — A worker who was injured in an accident at Elkhart’s Yoder Oil on Nov. 16, 2012, is still recovering from his injuries. Meanwhile, investigations of two companies, including Yoder Oil, continues.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration has one investigation involving Yoder Oil and another one involving Upstate Metal Recycling, a company from Fort Wayne.
Martin Henry, owner of Upstate Metal Recycling, said the worker involved in the incident is recovering. He initially received 40 percent burns on mostly his stomach and back. “He was sedated for 30 days. But he’s OK now. Everything’s going to be fine,” he said. Henry said the man was a worker for his company and contracted to Yoder Oil.
The Elkhart Fire Department was called to Yoder Oil, 1221 N. Nappanee St., where an explosion was reported.
Tony Balzano, chief investigator for the fire department, said Yoder Oil was replacing some tanks that are used to store large quantities of fuel. The worker was cutting one last tank to remove its pieces using a torch. However, he was working close to a tank that was empty but not scrubbed, said Balzano. The fumes from the tank got to the area where the worker was using a torch, causing an ignition. The incident happened sometime before 3 p.m.
Balzano said what happened next is what he refers to as a flash, not an explosion.
“The fumes just flashed,” he said. “By the time we got to the scene there was no fire.”
The tank, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons in volume, buckled following the explosion.
The worker was flown to a hospital with severe burns, Balzano said. He said he learned from Yoder Oil during his investigation that the worker seems to be doing better.
Bob Dittmer, public information officer with IOSHA, said both investigations remain active.
He said investigations by the department might last up to six months.
The IOSHA’s Industrial Compliance Division is responsible for public and private sector safety and health in the commercial, agricultural and industrial sector, according to the government website. It recognizes and evaluates the exposure to occupational health hazards such as atmospheric contaminants, chemical, biological, physical and ergonomic hazards.
Yoder Oil did not immediately return a call on Tuesday.