The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the feed maker with one willful, one repeat and 11 additional safety violations for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with structural collapse.
“International Nutrition did not follow the basic safety procedures that would have prevented this senseless loss of life,” said assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr David Michaels.
But the company said it strongly disagrees that its officials knew of any condition, which could have contributed to the collapse of its building, and it "will continue to work towards determining the cause of the accident.”
The feed manufacturer told this publication today: "We will be speaking to OSHA again on this matter. We appreciate the support of our industry and we hope to be back up and operational by late spring of 2015."
International Nutrition has 15 days to request an informal conference or contest the citations.
The US agency has proposed penalties of $120,560 and it placed the feed company in its severe violator enforcement (SVEP) program following the investigation, which involves firms that have shown indifference to safety regulations through willful or repeated violations, or failure to fix violations.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Labor, Scott Allen, told us: "Companies may be removed from the SVEP program after a period of three years once they have corrected all of the cited hazards, paid all penalties, abided by any settlement provisions and not received any additional serious citations related to hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or any related establishment."
OSHA's investigation into the death of two workers and injuries to nine others on 20 January this year found a structural failure of the building’s east side truss, after a nine bin structure that it supported was loaded with excess of limestone. The extra weight was said to have caused the bins to collapse three floors into the center of the facility, almost immediately.
The employer should have obtained a evaluation of the bin structure from a qualified structural engineer to determine the amount of product that could be safely stored, said the US agency.
The feed manufacturer should also have placed appropriate load limits on the bins and implemented a policy to prevent overloading of the containers, added OSHA.
“The company's failure to protect workers from hazards associated with overloading the bin structures on the roof and its subsequent collapse resulted in the issuance of one willful safety citation,” said the watchdog.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Serious safety violation citations
OSHA also cited the feed manufacturer for a total of nine serious violations related to combustible dust hazards and lack of specific lockout/tag out procedures to protect workers operating dangerous machinery, among others.
International Nutrition has had a troubled history with OSHA, with the US agency citing it for 13 safety violations in the past 20 years.
The feed maker was fined $20,350 for four serious violations and three other violations after an investigation into the death of a worker in August 2002.
The employee was killed when he became caught in a moving auger conveyor while cleaning the surfaces of a mixing tank, said an OSHA report.
The company settled the citations, paying $13,600 in fines.