The Case of the Dangerous Dust


Bartlett Grain Co., L.P., faces five willful and eight serious safety violations cited by OSHA following an October 2011 grain elevator explosion in Atchison, Kansas, that killed six workers and left two others hospitalized.

The willful violations include allowing grain dust—which is nine times as explosive as coal dust—to accumulate, using compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources, jogging (repeatedly starting and stopping) inside bucket elevators to free legs choked by grain, using electrical equipment inappropriate for the working environment and failing to require employees to use fall protection when working from heights.

“The deaths of these six workers could have been prevented had the grain elevator’s operators addressed hazards that are well known in this industry,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Bartlett Grain’s disregard for the law led to a catastrophic accident and heartbreaking tragedy for the workers who were injured or killed, their families and the agricultural community.”

The serious violations involve a lack of proper preventive maintenance, certification, and lubrication of grain handling equipment; inadequate emergency action plan training for employees and contractors; a lack of employee and contractor training on job hazards; and a housekeeping program that was deficient because it did not prevent grain dust accumulations.

The citations to Bartlett Grain, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri, carry $406,000 in proposed fines.

Topeka-based Kansas Grain Inspection Services Inc., a contractor employed by Bartlett Grain, is also being cited for one willful violation involving a lack of fall protection for employees working on the top of rail cars; one serious violation, the lack of a hazard communication program; and one other-than-serious violation, not providing basic advisory information about respirators to employees. These violations carry total proposed penalties of $67,500.

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. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. 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.

Over the past 35 years, there have been more than 500 explosions in grain handling facilities across the US that have killed more than 180 people and injured more than 675. Grain dust is the main source of fuel for explosions in grain handling. This dust is highly combustible and can burn or explode if enough becomes airborne or accumulates on a surface and finds an ignition source (such as a hot bearing, overheated motor, or misaligned conveyor belt, as well as heat or sparks from welding, cutting, and brazing operations). OSHA standards require that both grain dust and ignition sources be controlled in grain elevators to prevent potentially deadly explosions.

For more information on grain handling, visit

The citations to Bartlett Grain Co., L.P., and Kansas Grain Inspection Services Inc., can be viewed at:

How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)

OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, MSDS (called “safety data sheet” or SDS under the new standard), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on SDSs.

Environmental Resource Center is offering webcast training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Register for an upcoming webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) offered on the following dates:

  • April 17
  • May 18
  • June 26
  • July 18
  • August 15
  • October 2

How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets

OSHA has adopted the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. A cornerstone of GHS is the adoption of a completely revised Safety Data Sheet (SDS). In Environmental Resource Center’s new, How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets webcast, you will learn the differences between the MSDS and SDS, how to author SDSs that meet the latest OSHA standards, how to classify your products according to the 28 GHS hazard classes and 88 categories, what must be entered in each section of the SDS, essential references you can use to locate data for each section of the SDS, and how to handle trade secrets.

To learn what you must do to meet the new SDS requirements, register for an upcoming How to Author GHS Safety Data Sheets webcast offered on the following dates:

  • April 18
  • June 27
  • October 3

How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard

Workplace and supplier hazard communication labels are being reinvented with OSHA’s adoption of the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for labeling hazardous chemicals. In a new, interactive Environmental Resource Center webcast, How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard, you will learn the difference between workplace and supplier labels; what signal words, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and pictograms must be on your labels; essential references you can use to locate required label information; and how to label products with existing HMIS, NFPA, DOT, and CPSC labels.

The How to Label Hazardous Chemicals Using OSHA’s New GHS Hazcom Standard webcast will be offered on the following dates:

  • April 19
  • June 28
  • October 4

St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in St. Louis, Missouri, from May 8–10 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Charlotte DOT/RCRA Update Training and SARA Title III Workshop

Environmental Resource Center will offer DOT and RCRA Annual Update and Refresher training on May 9, and the SARA Title III Workshop on May 10, in Charlotte, North Carolina. To register for these upcoming courses, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

40-Hour and 24-Hour HAZWOPER Training

Environmental Resource Center will offer 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training May 14–18, and 24-Hour HAZWOPER training May 14–16, in Cary, North Carolina. To register for either HAZWOPER course, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.

Don Park USA Fined for Safety and Health Violations

OSHA has cited Don Park USA, L.P., in Conley, Georgia, for 16 safety and health violations based on a follow-up inspection. OSHA found the same violations as during the original inspection, which was conducted after a fatality occurred at the company’s Conley facility in October 2010. Proposed penalties for the latest violations total $81,180.

Four repeat safety violations and one repeat health violation involve failing to develop specific energy control procedures that are required to be used when employees perform equipment maintenance, protect employees from exposure to live electrical parts, ensure that employees wear appropriate safety glasses while cutting plasma, provide strain relief at the terminal end of a welding gun, and have a properly working slide bolt on the inside of the emergency exit door. 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 facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The same violations were cited following OSHA’s 2010 inspection.

Four serious safety violations include failing to cover a hole in the floor, train employees required to perform procedures involving the lockout/tagout of energy sources, conduct inspections of electrical equipment, and properly install electrical equipment. Six serious health violations include using unrated flammable adhesives for electrical equipment, not guarding the lamp in the spray area from contact with flammable adhesives, allowing flammable adhesives to accumulate in the interior of the spray booth, failing to monitor methylene chloride exposure when employees use adhesive products, and failing to train employees on the hazards of methylene chloride.

One other-than-serious safety violation is failing to provide refresher training to employees on operating a powered industrial truck after an electrical outlet was struck by a forklift.

The 2010 fatality resulted from a crushing incident, in which the employee was killed by a large steel frame weighing approximately 1,550 lb. Don Park was cited in relation to the incident for failing to exercise caution when moving heavy, unstable loads in a vertical position.

Conley-based Don Park performs sheet metal work for the custom fabrication of air conditioning ducts and air distribution systems.

Republic Steel Required to Implement Additional Safety Measures, Training at Mills

The US Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with Canton-based Republic Steel Inc., resolving citations issued by OSHA in May 2011 for violations found at the company’s facility in Lorain, Ohio. Republic Steel, formally known as Republic Engineered Products Inc., will pay $235,000 in fines, hire full-time health and safety managers, and improve safety training for workers at its steel mills in federal OSHA’s jurisdiction. In addition to the Lorain mill, three other facilities are located in Canton and Massillon, Ohio, and Blasdell, New York.

“Republic Steel has agreed to make an investment in the health and safety of its workers by increasing training and accountability at its mills. Companies that put the health and safety of workers first should be recognized for their investments in human capital, our nation’s most precious resource,” said Greg Baxter, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Chicago. “OSHA has been committed to the health and safety of workers for 41 years.”

The safety and health managers to be hired at each mill will have the authority to suspend work until a safety or health issue has been abated without having to refer the matter to the mill’s manager or other supervisors. Each safety and health manager will make a bimonthly, random safety inspection of the mill, as well as a quarterly inspection at another one of the company’s mills. A Joint Safety Committee also will be established to audit inspections and develop best safety practices, and will meet on a monthly basis. Additionally, the company will post in-plant safety bulletins, create a quarterly newsletter, implement a system for employees to notify management anonymously of health and safety concerns, and allow union safety coordinators with the United Steel Workers to have increased access to the company’s hourly workforce.

Increased and improved training for workers will include training by a third-party consultant on fall protection and lockout/tagout procedures, training designed for contractors, and a 10-hour health and safety training program specific to Republic Steel’s operations that will be developed within 12 months of the settlement. Additionally, the company will pay attendance fees for safety coordinators and joint safety committee members to participate in the United Steel Workers training conference.

Specific, additional abatement measures Republic Steel agreed to take at the Lorain mill include providing a two-hour lockout/tagout training program to all affected employees, conducting a fall hazard audit, and developing a fall protection abatement plan. OSHA began its inspection of the facility in November 2010 upon learning that a worker had been hospitalized with a broken pelvis after falling 9 feet from a coil transfer car in the bar mill. OSHA cited seven willful and three repeat safety violations for the company’s failure to protect workers from fall hazards and implement adequate energy source lockout/tagout procedures for hazardous equipment. The settlement affirms citations for three willful violations of fall protection standards and three repeat violations of lockout/tagout standards.

The Lorain mill, which employs approximately 250 people, has been inspected 25 times since 1990 and cited for a total of 86 violations. The company’s other sites together have been inspected 53 times since 1990, resulting in citations for a total of 124 violations. Republic Steel employs more than 2,200 workers companywide and recently announced plans to hire up to 500 additional workers at the Lorain facility.

LKQ Corp. Cited for Willful and Serious Violations Following Worker Injury

OSHA has cited LKQ Corp., in Jenkinsburg, Georgia, for three safety violations. OSHA opened an inspection after receiving a complaint in November 2011 that an automobile being worked on fell off a lift and landed on top of an employee, who consequently suffered a broken hip and internal injuries.

One willful violation was cited for exposing workers to being struck by falling vehicles. OSHA found that, prior to the incident, an independent contractor had verified that the lifts were improperly modified and told the employer to discontinue use until they were properly repaired or replaced. This violation carries a $70,000 penalty.

Two serious violations with $8,000 in penalties include exposing workers to corrosive chemical products without providing a suitable eye wash station and failing to install handrails on a stairway.

Headquartered in Chicago, LKQ Corp., recycles used auto parts and has locations throughout the US.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative Fined Nearly $192,000 for Combustible Dust and Other Hazards

OSHA has cited Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc., of Decatur, Alabama, with 17 safety and health violations for exposing workers at its Decatur facility to combustible dust and other hazards. Proposed penalties total $191,700 following an October inspection initiated based on a complaint.

Two willful safety violations, with penalties of $126,000, include failing to establish a housekeeping program to reduce the accumulation of, and use approved electrical equipment in the presence of, combustible dust.

Thirteen serious safety and health violations, with penalties of $65,700, include failing to provide working interlocks on the personnel elevator to prevent the door from opening when the elevator was not present, cover the grain chute opening, provide guardrails on open-sided floors and platforms to prevent fall hazards, provide handrails on stairways, establish an audiometric testing program, and guard various pieces of equipment. Additionally, workers were exposed to nuisance dust 1.6 times higher than the permissible exposure limit.

Two other-than-serious health violations with no monetary penalties involve failing to review and verify that OSHA 300 log entries were accurate and complete from 2008 to the present, and to provide the certified OSHA summary form from 2008 to the present.

The citations can be viewed at:

Decatur-headquartered Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc., provides a range of agricultural supplies and services to farmers in the state.

All-Feed Processing & Packaging Found in Contempt for Not Allowing OSHA Inspection; Fined Nearly $42,000

Senior District Judge Joe Billy McDade of the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division, has found All-Feed Processing & Packaging Inc., in civil contempt of court for failing to allow OSHA to inspect its Galva facility between May 4 and July 5, 2011. The Alpha-headquartered company has been ordered to pay $31,000 in fines for contempt and $10,964.95 in attorney’s fees.

“All-Feed Processing & Packaging’s continuous failure to allow proper OSHA inspections, along with its history of severe violations, led OSHA to seek court intervention to ensure its workers are safe,” said Greg Baxter, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Chicago. “We are pleased that the courts have put the workers’ welfare first, and upheld federal standards requiring employers to allow OSHA access to full-shift inspections to ensure work environments are healthful and safe.”

Judge McDade also determined that the company’s refusal to allow subsequent inspections of its pet food research and packaging facility in Galva unless OSHA would agree to limitations on time and conditions constituted clear and convincing evidence of a deliberate attempt to evade the warrant requirements issued by the district court in May.

In November 2011, OSHA cited All-Feed for 23 safety and health violations at its facility in Galva, including 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. All-Feed contested the proposed fines, which total $758,450.

All-Feed Processing & Packaging has been inspected by OSHA 12 times since 2000, resulting in significant enforcement actions on six occasions.

Cyclone Drilling Cited for Oil Field Safety Violations; Proposed Fines Total $65,600

OSHA has cited Cyclone Drilling Inc., with two repeat, five serious, and one other-than-serious violation of safety and health standards for exposing workers on an oil drilling rig to electrical, fire and fall hazards, among others, in an oil field near Ray, North Dakota. Proposed penalties total $65,600.

Cyclone Drilling Inc., was inspected under the OSHA Bismarck Area Office’s Problem Solving Initiative, which aims to prevent injuries and fatalities while also raising the safety and health awareness of employers in the oil drilling and construction activities of North Dakota’s western region.

The repeat violations include exposing employees to a potential 26 foot fall hazard as they worked on the drilling floor next to an open V-door, the area where drill pipe sections are brought onto the drilling floor, and a non-functional eye wash station used to prevent injury in the event of corrosive materials entering the eyes. Cyclone Drilling Inc., was cited for an open side platform in 2008 at a Lambert, Montana, facility and for a violation related to an eye wash station in Meeker, Colorado, in 2010.

The serious violations include failing to install connecting pins in the derrick, repair damaged stairs, provide an operable fire extinguisher, guard rotating machinery parts, provide electrical covers, and repair or replace damaged and improperly strung flexible cords.

Sign Source USA Cited for Exposing
Workers to Safety and Health Hazards

OSHA has cited Sign Source USA of Lima, Ohio, with 26 safety and health violations, including exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards. OSHA initiated a safety inspection of the custom sign manufacturer’s plant on December 19, based on a complaint, and opened a separate health inspection on January 5. Proposed penalties total $67,400.

Eleven serious safety violations involve failing to remove wood and metal scraps from work areas that presented trip and laceration hazards, provide machine guarding on router tables, provide forklift training, mark forklift attachments properly with their load capacities, and require the proper personal protective equipment—such as helmets and other headgear—to be worn during welding operations. Several of the violations relate to electrical safety, including a lack of personal protective equipment, failing to require the use of nonconducting headgear, and not training workers to recognize unsafe electrical practices.

Several of the eight serious health violations involve fire and explosion hazards, including using paint spray booths with wooden beams covered in flammable materials; improperly discarding spray booth filters, rags, and other materials with flammable residue; not grounding metal parts in the spray booth; and not installing a gauge on the spray booth to ensure that proper air velocity was maintained. Additionally, the employer failed to provide a hazard communication training program and conduct medical evaluations for respiratory protection.

Four other-than-serious safety violations include failing to record forklift inspections and maintain OSHA illness and injury logs for 2009, 2010, and 2011. Three other-than-serious health violations related to the company’s respirator protection program include a lack of fit testing and training, and allowing respirators to be used by individuals with facial hair.

The company previously was inspected by OSHA in 2006, resulting in citations for 11 violations involving a lack of machine guarding, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, and hazard communication.

Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. Cited after Combustible Dust Explosion Seriously Burns Two Maintenance Workers

OSHA has cited Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., in Steeleville, Illinois, for six safety violations—including three willful—after two maintenance employees conducting welding operations sustained serious burns to their upper bodies as the result of an explosion within a dust collector at the company’s Steeleville pasta manufacturing plant on October 6, 2011.

At the time of the incident, the two maintenance workers were repairing a hole in the side of a metal trough containing a screw conveyor that was leaking granulated sugar within several feet of an operational dust collector. The dust collector exploded due to a spark from the welding operations.

The three willful violations include failing to eliminate dust deflagration and explosion hazards on indoor dust collectors and air material separators, contain dust during the bagging of powdered sugar, shut down ducts and conveyor systems during welding operations (which had been responsible for carrying a spark to the nearby dust collector), and ensure that electrical equipment installed in areas exposed to combustible dust was approved and safe for those locations.

Three serious violations include failing to inspect areas where welding was to be performed, prohibit welding in the presence of explosive atmospheres, and ensure the safe use of welding processes in the presence of combustible dust.

Due to the willful violations, OSHA has placed Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations. For more information about SVEP, click here.

Prior to this inspection, the food manufacturer had been inspected by OSHA 30 times since 2002, resulting in citations for 46 violations, some involving combustible dust explosion, deflagration, and other fire hazards cited at the company’s Steeleville and Momence, Illinois, plants in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., is headquartered in Chester, Illinois. The company employs more than 2,000 workers at 12 facilities located in Chester, Steeleville, Momence, and Centralia, Illinois; Joplin, Jasper, Perryville, and McBride, Missouri; and Wilson, Arkansas.

The citations can be viewed at:

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