HOUSTON -- Combustible dust left uncontrolled or suspended in the air can explode, which was one of many safety hazards discovered after an inspection at the Thomas Moore Feed facility in Navasota, Texas, by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA inspectors found 18 violations and proposed a penalty of $58,100.
The agency's Houston North Area Office did its inspection in September 2014 following a complaint. OSHA cited Thomas Moore Feed for not protecting workers from a potential dust explosion; allowing openings in the dust collection exhaust path of the hammer mill; failing to keep dust accumulations below 1/8 inch in a priority area; not maintaining a functioning monitoring device on the dust collector or making repairs to the dust collector; and not having an adequate dust emission source.
'Airborne grain dust in the right concentration can become explosive and must be properly controlled by ventilation, proper housekeeping to control dust accumulations and other effective means, which this employer failed to do,' said Josh Flesher, acting area director for OSHA's Houston North Area Office.
The serious violations include failure to guard belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets less than 7 feet from the ground or platform; evaluate permit-required confined spaces; and outline procedures to prevent the unintended startup of machinery. 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. Three other violations involve failing to document forklift training; not identifying names on locks when a crew performs service or maintenance; and not providing information to employees wearing respirators.
ST Feed Mill, doing business as Thomas Moore Feed, specializes in manufacturing animal feed and employs about 35 workers at the Navasota facility. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties 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 Houston North Area Office at 936-760-3800 or the Houston South Area Office at 281-286-0583.
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.