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Report: Ford Faces Fine for Blast

September 2, 1999

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. will be fined at least $1 million and has agreed to institute a series of safety improvements to answer at least a dozen workplace violations cited in connection with a February explosion that killed six workers.

The Michigan Occupational and Safety Administration today was expected to release a synopsis detailing fines, safety violations and specific safety changes that Ford has agreed to make.

A top state official and an unidentified senior Ford executive told The Detroit News for a story today that the fine against the automaker would be between $1 million and $2 million. The fine, which would be the largest for workplace safety violations in Michigan history, comes after a seven-month investigation.

The Feb. 1 explosion in the powerhouse at the Rouge complex also injured 14 workers.

The officials said Ford also had agreed to a series of specific safety changes and agreed not to contest the fine.

``This settlement agreement allows the company to focus its efforts on accident prevention,″ James Padilla, Ford manufacturing group vice president, told the newspaper. ``We cannot change the terrible events of the past, but we can work hard to make our workplaces safer.″

He declined further comment.

Officials said Ford also will donate an amount equal to the civil fine to area hospitals with burn units, and spend another $1 million to establish a joint Ford-United Auto Workers research fund to prevent workplace accidents.

In July, the automaker announced it had hired CEC Consultants, a Cleveland firm, to help it examine safety procedures at power plants across North America.

The families of three workers have sued Rouge Steel, which co-owns the Rouge complex. Those claims are expected to be dropped after the families of the workers sign settlements with Ford, which has offered more than $30 million to settle claims.

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