OSHA Fines Louisiana Imperial Sugar Plant $36,000

OSHA cited Imperial Sugar's Louisiana-based Gramercy plant for several serious safety violations and proposed that company pay $36,000 in penalties.

OSHA's March 14 inspection of the Gramercy plant comes a month after 13 workers were killed at the company’s Georgia refinery near Savannah in an explosion caused by combustible sugar dust. The disaster prompted OSHA to inspect hundreds of plants where combustible dust is a workplace hazard.

OSHA’s citations and the penalties against the Gramercy plant, which were issued March 21, include:

  • Three filter-cartridge dust collectors inside the building were not equipped with explosion protection systems – $6,300.
  • Three air-material separators were not vented to an area outside of the building – $6,300.
  • Inappropriate, gaseous (carbon dioxide) fire extinguishers were in the powder mill room and packaging areas. OSHA regulations require dry chemical extinguishers – $6,300.
  • Employees working in the shipping area were exposed to the possibility of being struck by 50 pound bags that were not stacked in a way to prevent them form sliding or collapsing – $4,500.
  • Two propane-powered forklifts were used in the granulated sugar packaging area, within 15 feet of the unenclosed dust filter bags. OSHA requires electric forklifts in these areas – $6,300.
  • A conveyor system’s control panel had an unused opening where sugar dust could get in, potentially exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards – $6,300.

In a statement, Imperial Sugar's CEO John Sheptor emphasized he did not agree with the “type and/or severity classification” of the citations and will likely contest them. The company has 15 days from receipt of the citations to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

"We pledge to our associates and contractors that we will continue to provide a safe work place," Sheptor said. "Our associates and contractors are themselves involved with and very helpful in achieving this goal."

Sheptor added that the company was in the process of beginning to remove potentially combustible dust at its powdered sugar operation in Gramercy, forcing the plant to shut down operations.

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