Nebraska feed company hit with $101,000 OSHA fine

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/SafakOguz
© iStock/SafakOguz

Related tags: Occupational safety and health, Osha

Nutrition Services, Inc. faces a $101,898 fine from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged safety violations found in an on-site visit.

The Nebraska-based animal feed company was reviewed in July after a report of unsafe working conditions was received by the agency, it said. The site visit generated 25 serious and other-than-serious violations, which were published​ late last week.

When contacted regarding the citation, the company declined to comment.

“Two Nebraska workers have lost their lives in 2016 in the grain handling industry and far too many preventable fatalities and injuries continue to occur,”​ said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in Omaha. “OSHA's grain-handling standards address the numerous serious and life-threatening hazards commonly found in grain bins by training workers in these hazards and by following recommended safety procedures employers can prevent injuries.”

The agency also recently reminded​ feed and grain industry members to be vigilant during the preparation for and ongoing harvest season.

Citation specifics

Nutrition Services was reported to have safety violations in several areas, said OSHA. These included fall hazards from unguarded ladders and missing or inadequate railings around raised platforms.

“The employer is failing to protect employees from fall hazards associated with leaving open access and egress point to fixed ladders,”​ said the agency. “The most recent occurrence of this was found at the facility located on 501 Division Ave… where the employer has employees accessing the platform over the bagger/sewing line using a fixed industrial ladder that is missing the means to protect employees from stepping or falling through the access/egress point of the ladder.”

The facility also has locations lacking danger signs regarding atmospheric or engulfment hazards in confined spaces, the agency said. And, some employees lack training regarding potential risks associated with specific activities including entering enclosed spaces or operating powered industrial trucks.

Not all employees used safety equipment or permits for entry with confined spaces, reported OSHA. Employees also were not informed of potential risks from wearing tight-fitting respirators.

“The employer is failing to protect employees from potential electrical, atmospheric and caught between hazards associated with employees entering a permit required confined space without having developed and implemented a written permit and process meant to manage and mitigate the hazards,” ​the agency said.

Other areas of concern included the potential for employees to be caught in inadequately guarded belt and pulley or chain and sprocket systems; that lock and tag out processes were not always used; and that employees entered enclosed spaces without testing air quality, said the agency. And, the company did not have a written housekeeping program to reduce accumulation of fugitive dust or to remove dust buildup in “priority housekeeping areas;”​ a preventive maintenance procedure to set regular inspections of some equipment; or a list of hazardous chemicals kept.

“The employer is failing to protect employees from explosion hazards associated with employees using compressed air to blow potentially combustible dust accumulations off horizontal surfaces throughout the facility without de-energizing all potential ignition sources,”​ said the agency. And, not all electric equipment was guarded against accidental contact or for dust.

What’s next?

Nutrition Services has the option to address the safety violations contained in the report and pay the set penalties, said OSHA. Additionally, within 15 days of receiving the citation the company also has the option to refute the citation or set a meeting about the comments.

The company can contest the citation as a whole, individual pieces, abatement dates set and the penalties, said the agency.

An informal hearing to discuss the items also can be set during the 15-day window, said the agency. “During such an informal conference you may present any evidence or views which you believe would support an adjustment to the citation(s) and/or penalty(ies),” ​it added.

“Bring to the conference any and all supporting documentation of existing conditions as well as any abatement steps taken thus far,” ​the agency said. “If conditions warrant, we can enter into an informal settlement agreement which amicably resolves this matter without litigation or contest.”

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