“Disregard for the law” is how Labor Secretary Hilda Solis describes the events that led to a grain explosion that killed six workers and left two others seriously injured. Now OSHA has decided on the penalties for two companies involved in the incident.
Bartlett Grain Co. faces $406,000 in fines for the October 2011 grain elevator explosion in Atchison, KS. A contractor employed by Bartlett, Kansas Grain Inspection Services based in Topeka, was fined $67,500.
OSHA issued five willful and eight serious violations to Bartlett, including:
- allowing grain dust to accumulate (willful)
- using compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources (willful)
- using electrical equipment inappropriate for the working environment (willful)
- lack of proper preventive maintenance (serious)
- inadequate emergency action plan training for employees and contractors (serious)
- lack of employee and contractor training on job hazards (serious), and
- a housekeeping program that was deficient because it did not prevent grain dust accumulations (serious).
Kansas Grain Inspection Services was hit with three citations, including one willful violation involving a lack of fall protection for employees and one serious violation for the lack of a hazard communication program.
The Washington Post reports an OSHA spokesman says when there is a fatality along with a willful violation, the agency’s solicitor may consider forwarding the case to the Justice Department for criminal consideration, although no decision has been made at this time.
A written statement from Bartlett Grain’s president, Bob Knief, says the company will contest the citations. The company disagrees there was a hazardous accumulation of dust before the explosion and contends the dust found by OSHA was deposited by the incident.
Kansas Grain Inspection Services also plans to appeal the citations.
OSHA says over the past 35 years, there have been more than 500 explosions in grain handling facilities in the U.S. that have killed more than 180 people and injured more than 675.