OSHA issues more fines against Western Sugar after investigation

A column of steam flows from one of the pipes at the Western Sugar Factory in Lovell. The factory is running 24/7 to process the heavy yield of beets harvested this year.
A column of steam flows from one of the pipes at the Western Sugar Factory in Lovell. The factory is running 24/7 to process the heavy yield of beets harvested this year.

The Western Sugar Cooperative has been hit with a new round of proposed fines stemming from the Jan. 4 death of Anfesa Marie Galaktionoff at the Lovell sugar factory and subsequent investigations.

The Wyoming Dept. of Workforce Services Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday that OSHA has now cited the Denver-based company for a total of 39 violations based on follow-up inspections at both the Lovell and Torrington Western Sugar facilities.

Two OSHA inspections conducted in February have resulted in proposed penalties totaling $194,000 after the agency earlier (May 15) announced 12 citations and proposed penalties of $71,000.

In the earlier round of citations, OSHA initiated an initial inspection in response to a report of a fatality involving an employee, Galaktionoff, who fell through a floor opening in the sugar beet wheel processing pit and was killed.

Fatality investigations are typically limited in scope, according to the Friday OSHA press release, but the January case is still open. Based on observations made by the compliance officer during the Lovell fatality investigation, OSHA returned for a full inspection of the Lovell facility shortly thereafter. OSHA also conducted an inspection of the Torrington Western Sugar facility, which had been inspected and cited for violations on prior occasions, the agency release stated. Follow-up/referral inspections are not uncommon after incident investigations, the agency said.

“In addition to one repeat serious violation, these inspections revealed 36 instances in which a serious hazard existed that the employer knew about, or should have known about,” said Joan Evans, director of the Wyoming Dept. of Workforce Services. “Western Sugar Cooperative and all Wyoming employers have a responsibility to keep their worksites safe, and that means that they must understand and abate hazards at all worksites under their management.”

The Lovell facility received citations for a variety of hazards, including: inadequate  guarding, unmaintained personal protective equipment, failure to conduct hazard assessments, employee consumption of beverages in close proximity to chemicals and insufficient emergency eye wash stations, among others.

The Torrington facility received citations for hazards that include inoperable emergency eyewash stations, numerous fall hazards, lack of guarding and inadequate signage, among others. The facility received a repeat serious violation for failure to guard equipment with moving parts.

Western Sugar also received two “non-serious” citations, OSHA said.

OSHA said the citations are posted at wyomingworkforce.org, and previous citations issued by Wyoming OSHA can be found on the establishment search page on the U.S. Dept. of Labor OSHA website.

Western Sugar has 15 days from the receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency release stated.

Following the initial round of citations and proposed penalties, the sugar company did seek an informal conference with OSHA to review the citations for the 12 announced violations listed by the agency.

Western Sugar Director of Shareholder Relations Ken Wimmer did not return an email sent to his office in Denver seeking comment on the latest round of citations, but he said following the previous citations that the company places “the highest value on safety for our employees and on providing a safe work environment.”

Employers are required to report fatalities or overnight hospitalizations of three or more employees to OSHA, the agency said. Those wishing to obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger may call 307-777-7786.

Employers can request safety and health assistance from OSHA Consultation at no charge. Health and safety consultations include an audit of the facility where hazards are identified but no fine or penalty is issued. To request a free OSHA safety consultation, employers should call 777-7787.

By David Peck