By Keith Myers, Kansas City Star, via APThe Bartlett Grain elevator smolders after the Oct. 29, 2011 explosion Last October, an explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kan., sent an orange fireball into the sky, taking out a section of the grain distribution building and killing six workers. Two others were injured in the blast. Now the U.S. Department of Labor has announced their proposed fines against Bartlett Grain Co. LP for the blast.
The Department of Labor is proposing $406,000 in workplace safety fines according to a report from the Kansas City Star.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Bartlett Grain for 13 serious and “willful” violations, including allowing grain dust to accumulate; removing dust without shutting down ignition sources; repeatedly starting and stopping equipment to free up grain, and using inappropriate electrical equipment in a grain dust environment.
Grain dust is nine times as explosive as coat dust and is a common hazard found within grain elevators. An electrical spark, cigarette or other blame can ignite the dust, which sends a pressure wave and causes an explosion.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the proposed fines.
“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,” Solis said.
Bartlett Grain officials said in a press release that they strongly disagreed with OSHA’s allegations. They take “extreme exception to the willful characterization. We certainly look forward to proving wrong OSHA’s unfortunate citations and characterization.”
Officials with Bartlett Grain have 15 days to contest the proposed fines.
An MSNBC report added that Topeka’s Kansas Grain Inspection Services, a contractor employed by Bartlett Grain, is also being cited for not providing fall protection for employees who work on the top of rail cars, a lack of a hazardous communication program and not giving basic information about respirators to employees.