In the agricultural industry, excessive dust is a fuel that can cause serious and sometimes deadly explosions and fires - as was the case at a Georgia chicken feed mill where an explosion killed a 25-year-old man and injured five others in February 2016, federal workplace safety inspectors have found.
An investigation by OSHA has determined that JCG Farms in Rockmart violated safety standards that could have prevented the tragedy. Federal inspectors determined excessive accumulation of grain dust in the hammer mill area ignited and the explosion killed one worker and sent five others to area hospitals. The blast caused excessive damage to the building and closed the feed mill.
On July 22, OSHA issued citations to JCG Farms of Alabama LLC, doing business as Koch Farms of Collinsville, A to J Electrical Services and D. Sims Inc. for 23 safety and health violations.
"It is tragic that despite wide industry awareness of these hazards, that some employers remain unaware of the common hazards of combustible dust," said Christi Griffin, OSHA's area director in the Atlanta-West Office. "This incident and this man's death were preventable. JCG Farms needs to take a proactive approach in their safety and health program to assess the workplace for hazards and correct them to ensure worker safety."
JCG feed mill's parent company is Koch Foods Inc. which employs approximately 14,000 workers nationwide. Koch Foods is a leading poultry producer with headquarters in Chicago. JCG Farms' feed mill is part of Koch Foods Eastern Region based in Collinsville, Alabama. JCG Farms contracts with A to J Electric and D. Sims to perform various work at the facility.
OSHA cited JCG for 15 serious and five other-than-serious safety and health violations.
The agency found JCG:
- Exposed employees to fire and explosion hazards due to the build-up of combustible dust.
- Failed to post warning signs to inform workers of fire and explosion hazards.
- Exposed workers to being caught-in machinery.
- Failed to develop or implement an emergency action plan.
- Failed to train employees to recognize hazards such as fire, explosion associated with combustible dust.
- Did not implement a written housekeeping program to reduce the accumulation of grain dust.
- Exposed workers to electric shock hazards.
The other violations involve not certifying forklift operator training, not issuing hot work permit for welding and grinding, failing to develop or maintain safety data sheets for feed mill products, failing to do noise monitoring and failing to provide respirator use information to employees.
Other companies involved
JCG contracted the Atlanta-based A to J Electrical Services to perform electrical, mechanical and maintenance work at the facility. OSHA issued the company one serious violation for not informing workers of the fire and explosion hazards associated with their work.
The agency also issued citations to D. Sims Inc. of Cohutta, Georgia, for one serious and one other-than-serious violation for not training workers on common ignition sources for dust and failing to provide employees using disposable dust masks with information in Appendix D of the respirator standard. The contractor provides housekeeping purposes at the facility.
Proposed penalties for the three companies total $112,600.