OSHA fines Medora Foundation

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation received citations and fines on Wednesday, stemming from a Medora Musical pyrotechnics accident Aug. 27 that left a woman with first- and second-degree burns.

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation received citations and fines on Wednesday, stemming from a Medora Musical pyrotechnics accident Aug. 27 that left a woman with first- and second-degree burns.

Kathy Yu, 22, of Taiwan, was carrying a box with four mortars to be used during a pyrotechnics scene of the musical when two of them detonated, burning her face, neck, arm and torso, said the musical's Front-of-House Manager Jeremiah Swenson of Minneapolis, in August.

Bruce Beelman, Occupational Safety and Health Administration area director, said an inspection and investigation into the incident was conducted on Sept. 2.

The first citation, in the amount of $2,250, was issued for employee exposure to burn or fire explosion hazards which resulted in an injury due to premature ignition of pyrotechnic shells, Beelman said.

The citation indicated TRMF needed to follow National Fire Protection Association guidelines requiring electrical firing unit cables be disconnected when loading mortars or setting up at the display site.


"The cables for the firing unit were connected," Beelman said. "When they were transporting those (mortars), the receiving electrical firing unit remained in the armed, or on, position during and after testing."

Beelman said in accordance with NFPA standards, pyrotechnics should not be in a ready or armed position when transported or loaded.

"The cables need to be disconnected during transport and loading, then the mortar would not have received the electrical current sufficient to detonate it," he said.

In August, Yu said musical officials did not show her how to handle the mortars and pyrotechnics other than how to set them up in their respective places.

Beelman said the mortars were transported in a plastic tub-like container.

Swenson said mortars used in the show were stored and transported in a plastic container, despite advisement from the manufacturer to store them in a metal magazine.

The second citation issued to TRMF, also for $2,250, consisted of three violations.

OSHA requires adequate personal protective equipment such as flame resistant clothing, protective glasses and face shields be provided to employees exposed to burn or explosion hazards.


"Those employees were not wearing adequate protection," Beelman said.

Swenson said the explosion lit Yu's shirt and hair on fire, leaving her with second-degree burns on her right forearm, ribs and neck and first-degree burns on her face.

For the second violation, TRMF did not conduct an OSHA-required hazard assessment to see which personal protective equipment would be most appropriate.

Use of personal protective equipment requires adequate training, which also was not conducted, leading to the third violation on the second citation.

Swenson, who has worked at the musical for the past six years, said pyrotechnic safety training provided to workers is very brief, no protective equipment is provided, and numerous people handled the pyrotechnics portion of the show.

Beelman said he believes TRMF did not notify OSHA of the incident.

Federal OSHA laws do not require an employer to notify OSHA of any injury unless it results in a fatality or hospitalization of three or more people.

"The only time we are requiring them (TRMF) to correct this is before they start again," Beelman said.


While Beelman said TRMF received the citations Wednesday, Annette Schilling, TRMF public relations director, said the foundation received notice of the citations Thursday.

TRMF has until Oct. 29 to contest the citations. Schilling said there are no plans to appeal the citations.

"We appreciate their (OSHA) assistance in helping us develop safer methods and practices," Schilling said in an e-mail.

Schilling said she was unable to respond to questions regarding the availability of personal protective equipment for employees, employee training and adoption of NFPA standards.

"We care deeply about the safety and well-being of all of our employees," Schilling said in the e-mail. "Our goal is use OSHA's recommendations to continue to provide a safe work environment for everyone at TRMF."

Schilling said from information she has received, Yu "is doing very well."

TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler was not available for comment.

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