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6 hospitalized after quarry accident

December 29, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Three employees of Holcim (US) Inc. were covered in limestone dust Monday morning -- one up to his neck -- during an accident at the Hagerstown plant's quarry that sent six workers to the hospital.

All six had been released from the hospital as of Monday evening, but a portion of the Security Road business remained shut down while the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted an investigation into the accident, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said.

Gary Batey, the plant manager, said all of the employees were "going to be fine." The former St. Lawrence Cement plant manufactures portland cement.

At about 10:15 a.m. Monday, three miners were working near a main door in a storage silo that contained limestone dust, Louviere said. When the workers opened the door, limestone dust poured out and covered them.

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One miner was buried up to his neck, and two others were covered with the dust, Louviere said. Three workers waded into the dust and helped pull the three trapped miners to safety, she said.

All six were taken to Washington County Hospital and suffered from labored breathing from the amount of limestone dust they inhaled, Louviere said. The miner who was covered up to his neck was taken by ambulance; the others were taken by company vehicle, she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration's Web site, those who come in contact with limestone dust can suffer from irritation of eyes, skin and mucous membranes; coughing; sneezing; discharge of thin mucous; and discharge of tears. The eyes, skin and respiratory system can be affected, according to the Web site.

All of the workers who came in contact with the dust were conscious and walking after the accident, Louviere said.

She said the section of the plant where the accident occurred will reopen at the discretion of MSHA officials.

"They have to ensure it's a safe area to work in before they reopen," Louviere said.

"Details of the accident are under investigation and will be shared when they become available," Batey said in a written statement.

The last accident made public at the cement plant occurred in 2007. A man was severely burned on the job when the company was still known as St. Lawrence Cement.

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