April 10, 2012
Contact: Michael Wald
US Department of Labor’s OSHA cites Alabama Farmers Cooperative for combustible dust hazards; proposes nearly $192,000 in fines
DECATUR, Ala. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. with 17 safety and health violations for exposing workers at its Decatur facility to combustible dust and other hazards. Proposed penalties total $191,700 following an October inspection initiated based on a complaint.
Two willful safety violations, with penalties of $126,000, include failing to establish a housekeeping program to reduce the accumulation of, and use approved electrical equipment in the presence of, combustible dust hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Thirteen serious safety and health violations, with penalties of $65,700, include failing to provide working interlocks on the personnel elevator to prevent the door from opening when the elevator was not present, cover the grain chute opening, provide guardrails on open-sided floors and platforms to prevent fall hazards, provide handrails on stairways, establish an audiometric testing program and guard various pieces of equipment. Additionally, workers were exposed to nuisance dust 1.6 times higher than the permissible exposure limit. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Two other-than-serious health violations with no monetary penalties involve failing to review and verify that OSHA 300 log entries were accurate and complete from 2008 to the present, and to provide the certified OSHA summary form from 2008 to the present. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
“Although this employer’s management is familiar with the safety issues associated with combustible dust, it still was allowed to accumulate throughout the facility, exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards,” said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA’s area director in Birmingham. “It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace.”
The citations can be viewed at
Decatur-headquartered Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. provides a range of agricultural supplies and services to farmers in the state. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Birmingham or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Birmingham Area Office at 205-731-1564.
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 ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.