Bartlett reaches settlement in grain elevator explosion case

by Arvin Donley
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Bartlett Grain in Atchison, Kansas
Bartlett Grain will pay a reduced fine and withdraw its appeal of OSHA citations.
 

ATCHISON, KAS. — The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Dec. 20 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Bartlett Grain Co. have agreed to settle the enforcement case OSHA filed against the company as a result of a dust explosion that occurred in 2011 at Bartlett’s grain elevator in Atchison, killing six workers.

OSHA had proposed $406,000 in penalties against Bartlett Grain, which is based in Kansas City, and another $67,500 in penalties against Kansas Grain Inspection Services Inc., a contractor employed by Bartlett Grain. As part of the settlement agreement, Bartlett Grain has agreed to pay a penalty of $182,000 and to withdraw its appeal of the two OSHA citations filed five years ago.

The explosion, which occurred on Oct. 29, 2011, 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.

On Nov. 10, 2016, Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, released a statement saying there was not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against Bartlett Grain Co.

The D.O.L. said Bartlett Grain has completed the abatement of several items in the OSHA citations and has agreed to perform additional abatement during the three-year length of the corporate-wide settlement agreement, including implementing additional safeguards, training and audit procedures at its 20 grain handling facilities in six states.

Kim Stille, OSHA
Kimberly Stille, a regional administrator at OSHA

“By agreeing to the terms of this settlement, Bartlett Grain Co. has made a commitment to invest in its employees and work with OSHA to follow best practices and make significant changes at its facilities nationwide,” said Kimberly Stille, a regional administrator at OSHA. “OSHA will ensure that Bartlett Grain implements its commitment to improve safety for all of its employees under this agreement.”

The D.O.L. said the agreement requires Bartlett to review its safety and health management system and consult with industry experts to conduct a detailed audit of the system’s effectiveness. Bartlett also will give its internal safety manager authority to stop unsafe operations; obtain a qualified third-party to review new installations or material modifications to dust filter collectors and grain stream processing equipment; update its housekeeping and preventative maintenance programs; enhance its training procedures; and report to OSHA on a quarterly basis throughout the term of the agreement. 

The company has agreed to work with OSHA, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society, and the National Grain and Feed Association to educate employees on hazards and share best practices for employee training and education, the D.O.L. said. In addition, Bartlett will supplement its annual employee grain training with outreach and training on grain engulfment and rescue to first responders and community members, including independent farmers, following any grain engulfment incidents within a 60-mile radius of any one of their facilities for a period of three years. Bartlett also will acquire and maintain grain bin rescue tubes at all locations. 
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