A worker’s accidental factory death at one of Boeing’s Seattle-based suppliers has triggered multiple safety investigations, potentially uncovering serious safety deficiencies that encompass not just the workplace but Boeing aircraft as well.
On May 30, a piece of machinery at the Vaupell Molding and Tooling plant fell and struck 32-year-old Acheni Selifis in the head. Mr. Selifis was hospitalized after the workplace accident but died on June 2 of his injuries.
His death prompted multiple investigations of the Vaupell plant, which manufactures plastic aircraft parts for Boeing using high-heat injection molding equipment. Tokyo-based Sumitomo Bakelite Group bought Vaupell in 2014 and is one of the entities looking into Mr. Selifis’ death.
Sumitomo’s in-depth safety audit of Vaupell’s Seattle plant operations found that workers there were using waste called “regrind” from previously manufactured injection-molded parts in the production of new parts.
According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, Boeing’s manufacturing specifications forbid its suppliers to regrind resins and use them in aviation and aerospace components. Recycling the regrind with high heat used in the molding process degrades the resin and weakens the end product’s tensile strength.
The Puget Sound Business Journal said that “teams of Boeing employees were subsequently at Vaupell’s plant verifying records and asking questions.”
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and the Federal Aviation Administration are also conducting investigations of Vaupell.
Vaupell’s alleged misconduct isn’t the first of Boeing’s supplier woes. Last week news emerged that Kobe Steel, a Tokyo-based supplier of aluminum, copper, and iron ore powder to Boeing and other manufacturers, had falsified inspection data to indicate the metals had passed quality and durability tests.
Although Boeing used some of the Kobe Steel in the manufacture of its aircraft, the company said its reviews of the potential problem have not uncovered any issues that present a safety concern.