Texas feed mill faces second OSHA fine in two years

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/DarcyMaulsy
© iStock/DarcyMaulsy

Related tags Occupational safety and health

The Thomas Moore Feed facility is facing a second fine from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a follow-up site visit.

The Texas-based company, which also does business as ST Feed Mill, specializes in feed manufacture, said OSHA. It was in initially investigated​ in 2015, which resulted in a citation and $58,100 fine.

A new site review​ documented several concerns and three repeated violations, the agency said at the end of December. The agency also charged the feed company a $91,911 fine from the safety violations it reported.

“Thomas Moore Feed cannot continue to expose workers to such serious hazards as unguarded machines and combustible grain dust,”​ said Joann Figueroa, OSHA's area director in the Houston North office. “Negligence like this can be fatal, and can lead to serious injuries or worse. Employers must follow OSHA's standards to protect workers and ensure a safe workplace.”

Violation details

Two of three repeated violations OSHA found included pulleys and horizontal belts that were not properly guarded to prevent employees from being caught, said agency. “An employee was exposed to caught-in hazards when operating a Walinga Agri-Vac for cleaning grain dust without enclosing two sets of pulleys on the vacuum,” ​it added.

However, both items were listed as being corrected at time of inspection, the agency said.

In a third repeat violation, a series of sprocket wheels and chains in different areas of the facility were not enclosed, the agency said. The non-enclosed systems presented a risk of employees being caught.

The new violations reported by the agency included employees being exposed to several deflagration and fire hazards ranging from the dust collector explosion vents not offering protection from the “fireball path;”​ a dust collector not designed to automatically shut down in case of a deflagration; and a dust collection system lacking access openings in its duct work, said OSHA.

Other concerns included that not all floor openings or raised platforms had standard railings, some fixed ladders had narrow climbing paths or offered no landing platform, and some ladders did not have the required side rail ladder extensions, said the agency. All the concerns presented fall hazards.

Additionally, the company did not have a hearing production program that was continuing and effective, the agency said. And, guarding was not used to protect employees against being stuck by materials in the bagging area.

“Compressed air was used to blow dust from ledges, walls and other areas in grain handling facilities when machinery presenting an ignition source was not shut down,” ​the agency added. “An employee was exposed to explosion and fire hazards during cleaning tasks with compressed air, without the Walinga Agri-vac vacuum being plugged into a receptacle that was ignition proof.”

What’s next

The company has 15 working days to respond to the citation, said OSHA. The range of potential reactions include abating the violations reported and paying the fines.

Thomas Moore Feed also has the option of contesting all or a portion of the citation, the agency said. “You may also contest proposed penalties and/or abatement dates without contesting the underlying violations,”​ it added.

Additionally, the company can request an informal conference to discuss the items listed in the citation and mitigation steps taken, said the agency. “If conditions warrant, we can enter into an informal settlement agreement which amicably resolves this matter without litigation or contest,”​ it added of the conference process.  

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