Warrant in Hand, OSHA Cites Pet Food Manufacturer for Failing to Protect Workers from Dust and Noise Hazards

For those employers who've thought about denying OSHA entry at the door of their facility…don't do it. OSHA cited All-Feed Processing & Packaging's facility in Galva, Ill., for 23 health and safety violations with fines exceeding $750,000.

All-Feed Processing & Packaging was cited for alleged willful violations of OSHA’s air contaminant, respiratory protection and hearing conservation standards. Some violations were cited under OSHA's "general duty" clause, including failing to provide appropriate fire and explosion protection in locations where concentrations of combustible dust existed. Proposed fines total $758,450.

"Even after a powerful dust explosion and fire at this facility in 2009, along with a number of citations previously issued for similar conditions, All-Feed Processing & Packaging fails to comply with safety and health requirements," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "By showing a blatant disregard for worker safety and health, this employer continues to expose workers to deadly hazards."

OSHA issued nine per-instance willful citations for allegedly failing to mandate the use of respirators for six workers exposed to dust in excess of the permissible exposure limits; and failing to protect three dust collection units, which collect combustible dust such as starch, potato base, cellulose fiber and pea protein, from fire and explosion hazards.

The agency also issued four, single-instance willful citations for allegedly requiring employees to work in areas where they were exposed to total dust in excess of permissible limits, together with failing to implement adequate engineering controls when employees were so exposed; failing to administer a continuing and effective hearing conservation program for employees exposed to excessive noise; failing to ensure the safe use, wiring and installation of equipment in hazardous locations; and allowing the use of liquid propane-powered industrial trucks in atmospheres where combustible dust may be ignited. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. Proposed fines for the 13 willful violations total $700,700.

Three repeat safety violations were cited for allegedly failing to ensure that operators of powered industrial trucks had completed training and were evaluated on their skills, have the load rating affixed to lifting devices and post danger signs to warn exposed employees of potential dangers posed by work spaces involving hazardous conditions. One repeat health violation was cited for allegedly failing to post safety instruction signs indicating the presence of combustible dust. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last 5 years. The company was cited for similar hazards in 2009. Proposed fines for the four repeat violations total $50,050.

One serious safety violation, with a proposed fine of $3,850, was cited for allegedly failing to have a written certification indicating that all hazards in the permit-required confined space had been eliminated. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition about which the employer knew or should have known.

All-Feed Processing & Packaging also was cited for five other-than-serious violations, with proposed fines of $3,850, for allegedly failing to record work-related injuries and illness as required on the OSHA 300 log. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The company was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses enforcement resources on employers with a history of safety violations that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law. The program includes mandatory OSHA follow-up inspections, and inspections of other work sites of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present. All-Feed Processing & Packaging was placed in the program due to its previous violations as well as the per-instance violations cited during both the current and a January 2011 inspection.

"Employers have a responsibility to provide appropriate safety equipment and training to protect workers from respiratory hazards, and to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthful," said Michaels.

All-Feed Processing & Packaging has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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