Bartlett Grain won't face criminal charges following 2011 explosion

by Holly Demaree
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Bartlett Milling Co. grain elevator explosion in Atchison, Kas.
On Oct. 29, 2011, a Bartlett Grain Co. grain elevator in Atchison exploded.

ATCHISON, KAS. — Bartlett Grain Co. will not face criminal charges in the 2011 explosion that killed six people. However, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) investigation continues.

On Oct. 29, 2011, a Bartlett Grain Co. grain elevator in Atchison exploded. The explosion killed six men and injured two. At the time of the explosion, the bins were about two-thirds full of mostly corn. Workers were loading grain onto a train in that area when the explosion occurred, according to the fire marshal. It blew the head house off the top of the elevator and blasted a hole in the side of the concrete structure.

In April 2012, OSHA cited Bartlett Grain for five willful and eight serious safety violations. The willful violations include allowing grain dust to accumulate, using compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources, jogging (repeatedly starting and stopping) inside bucket elevators to free legs choked by grain, using electrical equipment inappropriate for the working environment and failing to require employees to use fall protection when working from heights.

“The deaths of these six workers could have been prevented had the grain elevator’s operators addressed hazards that are well known in this industry,” said Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor, on April 12, 2012. “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.”

On Nov. 10, Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, released a statement that they have determined there is not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the owner, Bartlett Grain Co. The announcement does not dismiss pending enforcement actions by OSHA.

The OSHA citations of Bartlett Grain carry $406,000 in proposed fines.   
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