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Plant Where 2 Died This Week Cited 13 Times in 20 Years for Violations, Another Fatality

While OSHA delves into its investigation of the cause of an explosion that left two dead and 10 injured at the International Nutrition plant in Omaha, Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald is reporting that the company has been previously cited 13 times by OSHA in the past 20 years.  

Recent citations include those following an incident in 2002 and another after a planned inspection of the plant in 2012.  OSHA noted that International Nutrition had complied with each ruling, paying fines and bringing machinery up to date. The company was not part of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Seven of the company’s 13 citations came after the 2002 incident which resulted in a worker fatality. The company was fined $20,350 for four serious violations and three others found during the post-incident inspection. International Nutrition eventually settled the citations paying a reduced $13,600. A 2003 follow-up inspection found no violations at the plant.

The four serious violations from 2002 include:

Not conducting an evaluation to determine whether there were any confined spaces that required a safe entry program.

Not developing a program for safe entry of confined spaces.

Failing to train employees to safely enter confined spaces such as the mixer tank.

Failing to ensure that employees used proper power-source lockout procedures when cleaning the mixer tank.

In 2012, a planned inspection found six serious violations.  International Nutrition was initially fined $19,600 but eventually settled and paid $10,430.  The violations from 2012 include:

Failing to provide suitable facilities for flushing eyes and skin in the event of accidental exposure to corrosive materials while charging a forklift.

Failing to ensure that storage racks in a packing area were secured or marked with load capacity.

Failing to guard parts of a piece of drill equipment.

Between 1974 and 1992, OSHA cited the Omaha firm for 21 violations resulting from both planned inspections and those that were the result of complaints.

It is impossible to predict whether OSHA will find International Nutrition to have been up to code ahead of this week’s tragedy.  What is clear is a pattern of on-again, off-again irresponsibility enabled by meager penalties that have repeatedly been dwindled during the settlement process.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez released his first official statement since the incident saying:

“My deepest condolences go out to the families and communities that lost loved ones in the tragedy at International Nutrition Inc. in Omaha. It is heartbreaking when workers lose their lives while providing for their families.

“Staff from my department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation. There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster, but I am confident that the answers provided by federal, state and local officials can offer lessons that will help avoid tragedies like this one in the future.”

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