OSHA cites Wisconsin company with safety violations after fire at processing facility
Vol. 27 Spring 2012
FOND DU LAC, Wis. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Milk Specialties Co. with three safety violations, including one willful violation for combustible dust hazards. OSHA opened an inspection following a report of a fire resulting from a dust explosion in a machine at the company’s Fond du Lac facility, which converts liquid whey products into dried whey protein concentrate powder. Proposed fines total $72,000.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health. In addition to the willful violation, the inspection found two other-than-serious violations that involve failing to properly maintain OSHA 300 logs for 2011 describing days lost by employees or days when work activities were restricted. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical injury.
As part of the inspection, OSHA subpoenaed two of the company’s reports: a five-year strategic plan for combustible dust and a combustible dust review report prepared by Milk Specialties’ vice president of environmental health and safety. Milk Specialties Co. refused to provide the documents, citing attorney/client and attorney/work product privileges. Following a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Judge J.P. Stadtmueller ruled on Feb. 8 that the documents constitute business advice and ordered the company to provide them to OSHA.
Milk Specialties Co. is part of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Milk Specialties Global Food Solutions, which is a division of Carpentersville, Ill.-based Milk Specialties Global. Milk Specialties Global and its divisions operate additional manufacturing facilities in Adell, Boscobel and New Holstein., Wis., as well as Mountain Lake, Minn. Prior to this inspection, OSHA conducted multiple inspections at the Wisconsin facilities and cited a total of 52 violations, including 48 in 2009 at a now-closed facility in Whitehall.
”This employer previously was cited for failing to comply with OSHA’s safety regulations. Failing to take appropriate precautions to protect workers from combustible dust explosions and fires is an unnecessary risk,” said Frank Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Appleton. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers on the job, especially when employers fail to do so.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its most recent citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Appleton Area Office at 920-734-4521.
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 www.osha.gov.