Safety is mandated by law. And breaking the law comes with huge consequences (and HUGE fines). Last month will go down in history as the month that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its third largest fine following a major violation of US safety regulations by a company.
A Deadly Explosion
Following the deadly explosion at their Port Wentworth factory which claimed the lives of 13 employees as well as injured 40 others, Imperial Sugar Company and two of its affiliates now face charges as well as a penalty of almost $9 million for their violation of safety standards and regulations in two of their jobsites. In both their plants in Port Wentworth, Georgia and Gramercy, Louisiana were found large accumulations of combustible sugar dust. This volatile and explosive material was present not only in their workrooms where most of their employees were present, but also on most of the equipment they operated.
108 Willful Violations and that’s not all of it
OSHA’s site investigations also revealed that there was total negligence and disregard for employee safety on the part of Imperial Sugar since the company very well knew of the hazardous conditions in their facilities. Despite these issues, the company did not do anything to alleviate the danger nor did they, at the very least, take on safety measures for the welfare of their employees. Thus, the company has been cited with 108 instances of willful violations related to the combustible dust hazard, which includes failing to clean up dust and not using appropriate equipment or safeguards where combustible dust is present. Other OSHA citations against the company include 10 citations for other willful violations, 100 citations for serious violations and four citations for other-than-serious safety and health violations.
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
Safety programs are important as much as they are a law in this country. It is stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. And yes, we don’t say “safety first” for nothing. The laws are there as a check and federal agencies such as the Department of Labor and OSHA are here as a balance. As responsible businessmen and employers, it is our duty to abide by these rules and standards as well as to look out for the safety and health of our employees in order to achieve a safer work environment. Not knowing the rules is never an excuse, and we know this because ignorance had cost many companies in more ways than one.
Don’t be fined and you’ll be just fine. Stay safe!