Investigation continues into cause of fire at magnesium products supplier
After flames and explosions ripped through an automotive interiors plant in Michigan on Wednesday, the source of the fire has yet to be determined. It's also unclear when all the plant's employees can return to work.
Thursday morning, hundreds of employees of Meridian Magnesium Products of America's Eaton Rapids, Mich., plant gathered for a meeting, local TV station Fox 47 reported, where the workers were informed that the company is assessing the damage to identify when it will be safe for workers to return.
"Power has been reestablished at Plant 4. We have recalled the first and second shift employees to commence work on some machining, assembly, and paint operations," George Asher, plant manger, said in a statement emailed to Automotive News. "The immediate goal for the team at Meridian is to perform our evaluation of damage so that we can assess when we can return to normal operations."
On Wednesday, a fire broke in Plant 3 of the Meridian factory. Two workers were hospitalized and treated for minor injuries, then released, Asher said in the statement.
The plant encompasses 208,000 square feet, the supplier's website says. That's similar in size to two Target retail stores. Meridian produces instrument panel components at the plant, with annual production of around 13,140 net metric tons (14,484 tons), the supplier's website said.
The statement did not identify the source of the fire or specify whether the power at Plant 3 has been restored.
In a letter given to employees after the meeting, obtained by the Lansing State Journal, plant manager George Asher said workers will be paid for Wednesday and Thursday, and can use vacation or paid time off for Friday. Employees will also have the opportunity to support the company's sibling facilities, he wrote.
"With regard to your future employment, the Fire Marshall permitted entry into the main facility for us to do an assessment; we have been not been granted occupancy to the building," Asher wrote. "As soon as occupancy is authorized we will begin calling employees back to work to begin the cleanup; we hope that begins as early as Friday. It is our intention to return to normal operations as quickly as possible."
Meridian is working with its customers to move dies to Strathroy and U.K. facilities, Asher wrote, though the letter did not disclose the names of the customers.
Online records from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration records reveal that the plant was cited for a slew of safety violations -- most recently in November 2016 which emphasized injury and illness.
Eaton Rapids, Mich., Fire Chief Roger McNutt did not respond to a request for comment.