The Jan. 20 structural collapse of International Nutrition Inc.’s Omaha-facility, was caused by overloading nine storage bins on the building’s roof level, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. The collapse at the livestock feed supplement manufacturer caused the death of two workers and injuries to nine others.
As a result of the tragic incident, OSHA has cited the company with one willful, one repeat and 11 additional safety violations for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with structural collapse.
The investigation determined a structural failure of the east side truss, after bins that it supported were loaded with an excess of limestone. The extra weight caused the bins to collapse three floors into the center of the facility in about 30 seconds.
A structural failure of the east side truss caused the bins to collapse down three floors into the center of International Nutrition’s Omaha facility, Jan. 20, 2014.A 53-year-old worker, who had been with the company just over a year, was cleaning on the second floor and a 47-year-old worker, who had been employed at the facility for 10 years, was conducting maintenance when the bins collapsed. Both were fatally injured.
Four workers were trapped in the rubble of the building after the collapse and were rescued by the Omaha Fire Department’s ladder truck rescue team. They and five other workers were transported to the hospital with injuries.
“International Nutrition’s decision to overload these bins directly led to the deaths of these two workers and the injuries sustained by nine other employees,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Families lost loved ones because International Nutrition did not follow the basic safety procedures that would have prevented this senseless loss of life.”
The company manufactures a feed supplement using multiple dry ingredients, rice hulls, solulac and limestone - the ingredients that were stored in the nine bins on the roof of the structure.
OSHA has proposed penalties of $120,560 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program after its investigation into the collapse.
OSHA conducted its investigation in cooperation with several other governmental agencies and specialized companies including the City of Omaha and the Omaha Fire and Police Departments, as well as Urban Search and Rescue based in Lincoln. Engineering Specialists provided professional engineering assistance.
“Each of these agencies and companies provided professional knowledge that was critical to protecting workers during the building demolition and in determining the cause of the structural collapse,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA area director in Omaha. “Omaha Fire and Rescue prevented further injury and Urban Search and Rescue performed some of the most hazardous work by entering the building to recover the two victims. OSHA is appreciative of the cooperation demonstrated by all the professionals involved in the investigation and their commitment to preventing future tragedies.”
The company’s failure to protect workers from hazards associated with overloading the bin structures on the roof and its subsequent collapse resulted in the issuance of one willful safety citation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
A repeat violation was also issued for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with using compressed air at greater than the recommended 30 pounds per square inch. The company was previously cited for this violation in 2011.
A total of nine serious violations were also cited for combustible dust hazards including failure to provide proper dust ventilation and failure to follow respiratory protection standards. The company was also cited for failing to train workers on confined space requirements, hazard communication and proper operation of powered industrial vehicles. Other violations included lack of specific lockout/tag out procedures to protect workers operating dangerous machinery and failing to de-energize potential ignition sources when using compressed air for cleaning.
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.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Omaha or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency’s Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171 or the toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
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.