After years of practicing as a Missouri & Illinois personal injury lawyer, I frequently see cases where employees suffer tragic accidents due to dangerous jobs. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of employers, these accidents happen because certain activities can never be made one hundred percent safe. Other times, an employer is so derelict in its duties that not only are private lawsuits inevitable, but the employer can find itself afoul of the U.S. Department of Labor.
That is the case with the workplace wrongful death at Bartlett Grain Company elevator in Atchison, Kansas. Back in October, six workers were killed in an explosion. Investigators in Kansas originally determined that the explosion, caused by grain dust, was accidental. However, on April 12, the federal government intervened. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued over a dozen citations and are seeking over $400,000 in fines. Criminal charges may be in the future, but that is a decision for the Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor.
According to the Kansas City Star, grain elevator worker has become one of the most dangerous jobs in America, and is part of the increasingly hazardous agricultural industry. Deaths by suffocation in the elevators are "all too common."
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stated in a press release, "Bartlett Grain's disregard for the law led to a catastrophic accident and heartbreaking tragedy for the workers who were injured or killed, their families and the agricultural community." Criminal charges may be in the future, but that is a decision for the Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor.
According to OSHA, grain dust is nine times more explosive than coal dust and Barlett did not perform sufficient preventative measures, nor did it have a sufficient plan in place in case of emergency. OSHA alleged that Bartlett allowed the grain dust to accumulate to dangerous levels. Further, Bartlett used compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources, creating an incredibly volatile atmosphere. They also repeatedly started and stopped machinery and used electrical equipment inappropriate for an environment covered in grain dust.
OSHA described these acts as "willful violations." A willful violation is an act that is "committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health." Bartlett Grain has been accused of five willful violations. The company has also been accused of eight "serious" violations, which according to OSHA are "hazard[s], violation[s] or condition[s] such that there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result."
Bartlett Grain president Company president Bob Knief issued a statement that the company "certainly look[s] forward to proving wrong OSHA's unfortunate citations and characterization."
If one of you or one your loved ones is injured in a workplace accident, you will need to an experienced St Louis county personal injury attorney on your side. Contact Ben Sansone today for a free initial consultation at (314) 863-0500.
Source: "KC grain company cited for violations in deadly Atchison elevator explosion," by Mike McGraw, published at KansasCity.com.
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