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Region 5 News Release: 10-1128-CHI
Aug. 17, 2010
Contact: Jason Surbey       Scott Allen
Phone: 202-693-4668       312-353-6976
Email: surbey.jason@dol.gov       allen.scott@dol.gov

Cooperative Plus Inc. fined again after US Labor Department's
OSHA finds 25 safety violations at 2 other grain facilities in Wisconsin
Company fined $374,500 for willful and serious safety violations at Whitewater and Genoa City

WHITEWATER, Wis.. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $374,500 against Cooperative Plus Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative, for federal workplace safety violations at its Whitewater and Genoa City, Wis., sites. These penalties follow $721,000 in penalties issued earlier this month after a worker was seriously injured from being engulfed by soybeans at the cooperative's Burlington, Wis., facility in February.

"This continued non-compliance with long established safety standards for working in grain handling operations by Cooperative Plus Inc. shows a complete disregard for worker safety," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "All workers have the right to work in a safe environment, and the Labor Department will use all legal means necessary to ensure companies comply with established safety requirements."

Based on its investigation of the Cooperative Plus facility in Whitewater, OSHA has fined the company $210,000 for three alleged willful violations. The company failed to test the atmosphere before entry and to have an employee entering wear a safety harness and lifeline. It also failed to post an employee to observe the entry, and to turn off and lock out power to the auger before workers entered the grain bins.

The Genoa City facility has received a proposed $70,000 penalty for one alleged willful violation, again for failing to shut down and lock out power to the grain bin augers before workers entered the bins.

In addition to the willful citations, the company has received $35,500 in proposed penalties for seven alleged serious violations at the Whitewater facility. The citations allege, among other violations, that the company lacked an emergency action plan and failed to train workers in the emergency use of respirators and on safe grain handling hazards. It also failed to test the oxygen levels in pits prior to entry or to maintain air-monitoring equipment for confined space entries. The company also has received a $59,000 proposed penalty for 11 alleged serious violations found at Genoa City. Violations address failures to implement confined space procedures while working in fertilizer tanks; to test the air quality before workers entered fertilizer tanks; to meet requirements for an emergency action plan; to train workers on grain handling hazards annually; and to equip employees with body harnesses and lifelines while working in grain bins.

OSHA recently sent letters to other grain storage companies warning them of their responsibility to comply with grain-handling and confined space entry standards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply with or contest OSHA's findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. To report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For general information, visit http://www.osha.gov. For a copy of the warning letter OSHA has sent to nearly 2000 grain elevator operators, visit http://www.osha.gov/asst-sec/Grain_letter.html.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.


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