OSHA has cited a pasta manufacturing plant with three willful and three serious violations in connection with a dust explosion that sent two maintenance employees to the hospital with serious burns to their upper bodies.
Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. faces $231,000 in fines.
The explosion at its plant in Steeleville, IL, happened when the two maintenance workers were welding to repair a hole in the side of a metal trough that was leaking granulated sugar within several feet of an operating dust collector. The dust collector exploded due to a spark from the welding.
The willful citations, which cost a total of $210,000, were for:
- allowing employees to work in areas containing combustible dust deflagration, explosion or other fire hazards
- ducts and conveyors that could carry sparks to combustibles weren’t suitably protected or shut down, and
- allowing employees to work in hazardous locations where combustible dust was present and electrical equipment was rated for general purpose use.
The serious citations, which cost a total of 21,000, were for failure to:
- inspect areas where welding was to be performed
- prohibit welding in the presence of explosive atmospheres, and
- ensure the safe use of welding processes in the presence of combustible dust.
OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) because of the willful violations. The SVEP requires follow-up inspections to ensure compliance.
Before this inspection, OSHA had inspected several Gilster-Mary Lee facilities a total of 30 times since 2002, resulting in 46 citations. Some of the previous citations involved combustible dust and fire hazards.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to decide whether to contest them or not.
Plant explosions involving sugar dust have proven fatal. In February 2008, an explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth, GA, killed 14 workers and injured 36 others. A U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation found the explosion was caused by poor equipment design, maintenance and housekeeping.