The main Toledo Jeep Assembly factory resumed Cherokee production late yesterday after several of its ceiling support beams cracked, disrupting manufacturing and sending several hundred workers home early.
City of Toledo inspectors said yesterday that the ceiling of the trim shop at DaimlerChrysler AG's 90-year-old Jeep Parkway plant was never in danger of collapsing, but the company wasn't taking any chances.
Cracks were found in 16 to 20 beams that are part of the ceiling support system, but the incident didn't affect the main beam, said officials of the company and city.
"Some people heard cracking and saw plaster falling," said Omar Okdie, a United Auto Workers representative. Mr. Okdie said the union is satisfied with the company's handling of the problem.
About 650 trip shop employees were evacuated from the area about 11 a.m. and most of the plant's first shift worker were sent home by 1 p.m. because of the resulting bottleneck, said company spokesman Trevor Hale. The plant employs about 4,900 hourly workers on two shifts there and at a satellite plant on Stickney Avenue.
Production resumed on the second shift yesterday after temporary reinforcements were installed in the second-floor ceiling. Permanent repairs will be made over the weekend, said Michael Stanford, action commissioner of the city's inspection division.
The extent of lost production was not known to Mr. Hale, although the plant normally produces 400 Jeep Cherokees in each of two shifts. It makes most of the Jeep Cherokees sold worldwide.
The incident happened after a forklift driver carrying a heavy load strayed into restricted space in a third-floor storage area. Weight restrictions were established there because of the age of the building, the Daimler spokesman said.
Outside structural engineers were brought in to survey the situation and determined that it would be safe for afternoon-shift workers to return after repairs were made, Mr. Hale said.
Toledo's building inspection division plan to make a follow-up visit after permanent repairs are made over the weekend, the city commissioner said.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into the incident, said Jeff Brooks, of the Toledo office.
A $600-million new Jeep assembly factory at Daimler's Stickney site is expected to begin test production this year and full production next year of the successor to the Cherokee, but the car maker will continue to use the Jeep Parkway factory.