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Pennsylvania factory explosion injures worker

Posted on by SST

A Jamestown, Pennsylvania, factory experienced an explosion on April 22, sending an employee to the emergency room. According to The Sharon Herald, the explosion occurred at approximately 7:30 a.m.  at Combined Systems Inc., a munitions factory responsible for the production of crowd control devices and tactical munitions for U.S. armed forces and law enforcement agencies across the world. Homeland security agencies and corrections facilities worldwide have also purchased products from Combined Systems. Some of the products made by Combined Systems Inc. include flash-bang devices, tear gas canisters, breaching equipment and chemical munitions.  

The explosion's exact cause is unknown as of yet, however, it has been reported that a shell exploded during a stage of production in which products are washed. Although the explosion was called "small" by Jamestown Fire Department assistant chief Tom Luckock, and resulted in only one injury, this is not the first incident for the Jamestown factory. This incident is the third in less than 18 months for Combined Systems, which experienced one fire in November 2011, and another in February 2012.

Previous fires at factory
According to Erie Times-News, on November 15, 2011, a fire broke out in a Combined Systems building known by employees as the "gas house." Firefighters from seven departments across Mercer county arrived at the scene, quickly accompanied by fire departments from nearby Crawford and Trumbull counties. Fortunately, the seven employees in the building, as well as the 163 others working across the company complex, were swiftly evacuated, due largely to the effective industrial fire alarm system. Fire and gas detection systems set off sprinklers, possibly reducing the amount of damage caused by the flames. 

Just three months later, on February 20, 2012, a similar but much more severe fire destroyed a building responsible for producing the munitions company's smoke products. This series of incidents has led to concern across the Jamestown community – although no casualties have resulted from the fires, the unnamed victim from the most recent incident is currently in the hospital with facial injuries.

The possibility of large explosions at factories such as these are particularly frightening as they often house explosive devices, highly combustible aerosols and chemical munitions. Combined Systems, Inc. produces all three. 

In an effort to uncover exactly what happened to cause the explosion, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that they will be looking into the incident. 

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