My name is Josh Kundert ’19 and I am interning as an environmental, health, and safety compliance officer at the Cudahy Operations of the Forged Products Division of Allegheny Technologies, Inc. (ATI). As the name implies, I work at a heavy industry forge, which is classified as ferrous and non-ferrous forging. At Cudahy Operations, we make single piece forgings, so there is no melted metal. Rather, titanium, chromium, aluminum, and stainless-steel billets are heated to a red-hot temperature then pounded into shape by some of the largest hammers on Earth.
Cudahy Operations is a 400-acre facility, of which approximately 1.6 million square feet is under roof. We employ approximately 700 employees, of which 500 work the first of three shifts.
I work in an office with four other environmental, health, and safety professionals who manage various aspects of safety and environmental compliance at Cudahy Operations and with the director of environmental, health, and safety for the Forged Products Division. My responsibilities vary from day to day and week to week, but some of my consistent duties include managing the approved contractor list and assisting in the investigation and remediation of workplace hazards at our facility.
Given the large size of our facility, it takes a large task force of maintenance personnel to maintain and improve our facility. Such a large group of people cannot all be employed by a single company. To that end, ATI contracts with over 100 local businesses to perform various services at our plant. ATI requires each of these contractors to provide certain documents certifying that their employees are properly trained and that their company has a healthy and responsible culture. I am responsible for collecting these documents, analyzing them for any anomalies, and issuing approval certifications to appropriate contractors. Occasionally, contractors do not meet ATI standards or fail to provide the appropriate documentation, and it is my responsibility to work with plant security to ensure these contractors are not admitted to the facility or allowed to do work at Cudahy Operations.
My other regular responsibilities include performing analyses of current company practices to improve them for safety and environmental compliance, as well as exploring corrective actions following a workplace injury. For example, last week, an employee was operating a manipulator, which is a large forklift for moving hot metal parts, and moving a hot titanium billet into our largest hammers. (The manipulator in question weighs about 300,000 lbs., and the billet weighed about 30,000 lbs. The hammer that was being used is over 80 years old, was moved over to Wisconsin as war booty from Germany after World War II, and is a counter-blow hammer, which means the hammer strikes from both the top and the bottom. The top half of the hammer weighs 450,000 lbs. The hammer itself strikes with over 1 million foot pounds of force and shakes the entire facility when used.) The right fender of the manipulator struck the handle that operates the hammer, knocking it out of the hammer operator’s hand, and causing the hammer to cycle. As you can imagine, when such large forces collide, bad things are bound to happen. In this case, without getting into confidential details, the employee operating the manipulator suffered a serious knee injury and severely jarred when the manipulator was jolted by the hammer striking the manipulator arm and billet too early. The manipulator itself will need extensive repairs to the structure and hydraulics, potentially running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The billet was ruined and scrapped, costing an unknown amount of money, but no doubt was not cheap.
Now, I know that was a long story, and I tell it better in person (ask me to tell it if you see me in person and want to hear more), but the point is, a serious accident like this, in which employees were injured, generates a long list of corrective actions. What about the standard procedure could be done better? What was the root cause of the accident? How do we avoid this in the future? We call these questions ‘immediate containments,’ and I assist in generating and managing them.
I have many more responsibilities, and many more interesting stories. Hopefully, I will be able to share more of them in a later installment of this blog.