OSHA Fines Imperial Sugar $6 Million

Company agrees to employ a full-time certified safety professional for Georgia plant.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has fined the Imperial Sugar Co. more than $6 million for a 2008 explosion near Savannah, Ga., that killed 14 people.

In the agreement, submitted to Judge Covette Rooney of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, Imperial Sugar will pay $4,050,000 in penalties for the 124 violations found at its Port Wentworth plant after the explosion, plus an additional $2 million for the 97 violations found in March 2008 after an inspection of its only other facility, located in Gramercy, La.

The citations alleged, among other safety and health hazards, that the company failed to properly address combustible dust hazards.

"The 2008 explosion took the lives of 14 people and seriously injured dozens of others. Clearly, health and safety must become this company's top priority," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This agreement requires Imperial Sugar to make extensive changes to its safety practices, and it underscores the importance of proactively addressing workplace safety and health hazards."

As part of the settlement, Imperial Sugar agrees that it has corrected all deficiencies at both of its plants or will correct those deficiencies according to a set schedule, OSHA said. Preventative maintenance and housekeeping programs have been established, and Imperial Sugar will identify and map locations where combustible dust may be present at its plants.

The company also will conduct regular internal safety inspections and employee training, and hire an independent expert at each plant to ensure that there are adequate avenues of communication on worker safety and health issues within the company.

Imperial Sugar also has hired and agrees to continue to employ a full-time certified safety professional for the Georgia plant. The company will retain outside consultants to conduct safety audits for a three-year period and evaluate Imperial's programs relating to managing combustible dust hazards, such as housekeeping, preventative maintenance and protective equipment for workers.

OSHA will approve all safety, health and organizational experts retained by the company.

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