News Release: USDL: 98-483
Wednesday, December 2, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 693-1999
OSHA PROPOSES FINES OF $1.6 MILLION AGAINST
ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS
Calling a rail car repair facility in Decatur, Ill., an accident waiting to happen, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today proposed penalties totaling $1.6 million against Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Co. for failing to protect workers against highly dangerous atmospheres.
Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said, "ADM permitted workers to enter rail tank cars to paint them knowing they weren't wearing equipment necessary to get them out in an emergency. Because the paint was flammable and potentially explosive, the danger of an accident was high. It shouldn't take fatalities to make an employer pay attention to safety."
OSHA cited ADM's Rail Car Repair Facility for 20 allegedly willful violations of a requirement to use retrieval lifelines for workers entering a confined space, with a proposed penalty of $1.4 million. OSHA also charged the company with another willful violation for failing to monitor the confined space during the painting, with a proposed penalty of $70,000.
"We have cited ADM frequently for violations of the confined space standard. Four workers have died and six have been hospitalized in confined-space related incidents at ADM facilities in Decatur since 1993," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress. "In 1996 ADM signed a settlement agreement with OSHA promising to correct the hazards and paid a penalty of $690,500. The failure to live up to that promise further endangers the lives of its workers and warrants stiff penalties."
OSHA also cited ADM for two alleged repeat violations for failure to inform its rescue service (the local fire department) of the confined space hazards, and for failure to train employees in the hazards associated with a confined space. These violations had total penalties of $100,000.
OSHA also issued seven citations for alleged serious violations, involving additional violations of the permit-required confined space standard, inadequate storage of flammable and combustible materials, and violations of the respiratory protection standard, with total proposed penalties of $42,500. Three other-than-serious citations were issued for violations of the respirator and spray painting standards, with no fine proposed.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
ADM's corporate headquarters and numerous facilities are in Decatur. The company, which processes and merchandises agricultural commodities and products, employs about 14,000 workers nationwide, with about 45 in the rail car repair facility.
OSHA conducted the current inspection because an employee complained that workers were assigned to clean inside rail tank cars without the company providing the required attendant outside the car to monitor the work for safety. OSHA expanded the inspection to include the interior painting operation when inspectors learned that employees were wearing body harnesses without attached retrieval lines while doing the painting. Retrieval lines allow rescue of employees without the entry of others into the confined space.
There have been 30 previous OSHA inspections of ADM facilities in Decatur. Eight resulted in citations for violations of the permit-required confined space standard. Eleven were willful or unclassified and 17 were repeat citations. Two of the citations were issued as the result of fatal accidents.
Confined spaces are large enough for employees to enter and perform work, but have limited means of entry or exit. Permit-required confined spaces contain or could contain a hazardous atmosphere or other recognized safety and health hazard.
A willful violation is defined as one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
A repeat violation is one for which an employer has been previously cited for the same or a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.