Gilster-Mary Lee fined, cited for violations

STEELEVILLE, IL (KFVS) - Gilster-Mary Lee in Steeleville, Ill. recently received six safety violations from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an explosion inside the plant on October 6, 2011.

Two employees were seriously burned on their upper bodies after an explosion inside a dust collector at the Steeleville pasta manufacturing plant.

Two maintenance workers were repairing a hole in the side of a metal trough containing a screw conveyor that was leaking granulated sugar within several feet of an operational dust collector. The dust collector exploded due to a spark from the welding operations.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the company did not do everything it could to get rid of the dust or take measure to ensure an explosion wouldn't happen because of the dust.

The company has been fined $231,000.

The "willful violations" include failing to eliminate dust deflagration and explosion hazards on indoor dust collectors and air material separators, contain dust during the bagging of powdered sugar, shut down ducts and conveyor systems during welding operations (which had been responsible for carrying a spark to the nearby dust collector), and ensure that electrical equipment installed in areas exposed to combustible dust was approved and safe for those locations. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Three "serious violations" include failing to inspect areas where welding was to be performed, prohibit welding in the presence of explosive atmospheres and ensure the safe use of welding processes in the presence of combustible dust. 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.

OSHA has placed Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Before this inspection, the food manufacturer had been inspected by OSHA 30 times since 2002, resulting in citations for 46 violations, some involving combustible dust explosion, deflagration and other fire hazards cited at the company's Steeleville and Momence plants in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. is headquartered in Chester, Ill. The company employs more than 2,000 workers at 12 facilities located in Chester, Steeleville, Momence and Centralia, Ill.; Joplin, Jasper, Perryville and McBride, Mo., and Wilson, Ark.

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