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Ammo explodes at Illinois plant, kills 2 recycling workers

No Chicago worker is immune from workplace dangers, although employees are likely to encounter hazards in some types of occupations more than others. A high-rise construction worker is certainly at a safety disadvantage compared to a cubicle-bound computer programmer. No matter what job workers have, Illinois employers are required to follow safety rules to protect them.

Two men at a recycling factory recently were killed on the job. A third employee at Totall Metal Recycling near St. Louis also was injured in the industrial plant explosion. The blast apparently was caused by a mortar shell that blew up outside the building.

Reports said Totall Metal recycled "usually inactive" ammunition. Investigators gave no hints about whether plant workers or managers were aware the mortar shell was not inactive. The origin of the shell was also unclear.

Law enforcement investigators and plant officials declined to identify the three victims or the medical status of the survivor, other than to say the worker was hospitalized. Confirmation of the decedents' names came from relatives who worked or previously worked at Totall Metal where more than 160 people are employed. A man who worked with his brother at the plant for about 15 years said his sibling, a 46-year-old father of four, was killed in the "preventable" blast.

The other decedent was identified by one of five brothers. The man said his half-brother, a 24-year-old Edwardsville man, worked in a dangerous environment and encouraged safety officials to inspect the plant for violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Totall Metal two years in a row for failing to protect workers from lead exposure and other dangerous substances.

Investigators, treating the explosion as industrial accident, include bomb experts, local police and fire units and federal agents. Fatal work-related accidents are often covered by an employer's workers' compensation insurance, which pays benefits to surviving family members, including funeral costs and wage losses.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Explosion kills 2, injures 1 at Granite City recycling plant" Joel Currier, Aug. 25, 2014

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