One man died last week from injuries suffered in the Sept. 16 explosion at TRW's airbag manufacturing plant in Mesa, Ariz.
Tony Fox, a 38-year-old TRW employee, died Sept. 18 from head trauma suffered in the blast. Another employee, Hector Ibarra, 38, was recovering from third-degree burns over half of his body and was listed in critical condition. Five other people were treated and released from local hospitals.
The explosion was the seventh since Jan. 1, 1993, at TRW Safety System's two plants in Mesa. Fox was the first fatality, although five people were injured in a 1989 incident.
Since their 1989 opening, the two TRW Vehicle Safety Systems plants have been cited 12 times by Arizona's Division of Occupational Safety and Health. A total of $6,060 in fines has been issued, though all in 1989.
The Sept. 16 explosion occurred in a 'press bay' where propellant chemicals for airbags are compressed. However, there had been no chemicals in the press bay for the previous two weeks because it was being upgraded, a TRW official said.
TRW is investigating whether a spark from a construction grinder got into a vacuum device that collects and cleans dust and propellant, said Tom Cresante, vice president of airbag operations for TRW Vehicle Safety Systems.
'There might have been traces of propellant on the pipes or ducts. We try to mistake-proof every process, but we can never guarantee 100 percent safety.'
TRW uses dry sodium azide as propellant for its airbags. Starting in 1996, however, TRW will shift to a hybrid mixture of sodium azide and stored gas as its air bag propellant, Heins said.
The two plants make 10 million driver airbags per year.