Imperial Sugar to pay $6 million in fines

Imperial Sugar Co. has agreed to pay more than $6 million as part of a settlement agreement with OSHA over safety violations at its plant in Port Wentworth, GA, where a combustible dust explosion killed 14 workers and injured 36 in 2008, and for violations found at another facility.

The fines include $4 million for 124 violations at the Port Wentworth plant and $2 million for 97 violations -- including failure to address combustible dust hazards -- discovered in 2008 at a facility in Gramercy, LA, according to an OSHA press release.

The agency initially proposed fining the Texas-based company $8.7 million -- then the third-largest penalty in the agency's history. A 2009 report (.pdf file) from the Chemical Safety Board cited poor equipment design, maintenance and housekeeping at the facility, and determined that Imperial Sugar knew of the hazards posed by accumulating combustible dust. Under the settlement agreement, Imperial Sugar must:

  • Correct all deficiencies at both plants
  • Identify and map locations where combustible dust may be present
  • Hire an independent expert at each plant to ensure communication on worker safety and health issues
  • Retain outside consultants to conduct safety audits for three years

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