Company cited for combustible dust blast that injured workers
Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. of Steeleville, Illinois has been cited by OSHA 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 pasta manufacturing plant on Oct. 6, 2011.
The incident occurred as the two employees 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.
Proposed penalties total $231,000.
30 inspections, 46 violations in 17 years
Prior to this latest 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 plants in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
"Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. has a responsibility to protect workers conducting welding operations from known hazards in its manufacturing plants, including explosive dust," said Karl Armstrong, director of OSHA's Fairview Heights Area Office.
Due to the willful violations, OSHA has placed Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, 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 the program, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.
Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. is headquartered in Chester. The company employs more than 2,000 workers at 12 facilities located in Chester, Steeleville, Momence and Centralia, Ill.; Joplin, Jasper, Perryville and McBride, Mo., and Wilson, Ark.