OSHA Investigation Leads To Changes For ADM Plant

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The lives of all who knew 51-year-old Robert Fitch changed forever January 29th, 2009, when Fitch died after falling from a manlift at Archer Daniels Midland company in Lincoln.

Now, the company is in the process of making sure a similar accident doesn't happen again, following an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA Team Leader Bernard Hauber said OSHA's investigation found ADM "failed to protect employees ascending on the lift, by providing bevel guards or a cone on each floor of the manlift."

According to the citation, investigators also found the manlifts were being operated without being properly repaired.

However, Hauber said OSHA's regulation standards apply only to manlifts built after 1971.

"That meant there were a number of citations we couldn't issue relative to that manlift because it was older than that," said Hauber.

In the citation resulting from the investigation, OSHA found the employer was also "failing to ensure that all employees operating powered industrial trucks in the facility are properly evaluated at least every three years."

OSHA considered the violations serious, but Hauber said the investigation showed the violations likely didn't play a direct role in Fitch's accident.

"From what I understand, the gentleman was coming down from a height, which means the bevels wouldn't have a direct impact on protecting him," said Hauber. "We know he was on the manlift, but other than he was on it and fell off, there's nothing else we could determine from that."

The citation carried an initial proposed penalty of $12,500 but through negotiations with ADM, OSHA has dropped two parts of the citation.

In order for ADM to contest the citations, they must show pictures, documents and other evidence which they believe supports an adjustment to the fine.

Hauber says ADM officials did do this, coming to OSHA with plans for changes at the Lincoln plant, including removing the current, old manlift and replacing it with alternate means, other than a belt manlift.

ADM Spokesperson Roman Blahoski said in a written statement the company is "working to identify an effective alternative to the manlift at which the incident occurred", pursuant to an agreement with OSHA.

As part of the agreement, OSHA agreed to withdraw two parts of the citation, however, ADM will still face a$2,500 fine for a violation regarding the evaluation of industrial truck training for employees.

Hauber says the dollar amount connected to a citation has "nothing to do with the value of a person", rather the amounts are simply standard rules the agency follows for given violations.

"Many people feel this is what I'm supposed to be looking for (the value of a life) but that's not what I'm here for," said Hauber. "Yes, we have to investigate fatalities but in the end, the penalties have to be only what OSHA standards say I can enforce."

Hauber says dealing with fatalities is not one of his favorite things to do, because with each case he sees the families pain, and says his sympathies go out to them.

With ADM replacing the manlift, Hauber says the negotiation is doing more than what OSHA standards would allow to be cited.

"By replacing that, they'll eliminate those inherent dangers and more inherent dangers associated with the manlift that we couldn't cite," said Hauber.

As part of the final settlement, ADM will need to have the new elevator in place within a year and provide quarterly updates on their progress in addition to the $2,500 fine and costs for the new elevator.



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