Did change of procedures lead to fatality-causing building collapse?

by on July 22, 2014 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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OSHA and International Nutrition disagree about the cause of an Omaha, NE, building collapse that killed two workers and injured 17 others in January. The top floor of the animal-feed plant suddenly dropped, crushing three floors and trapping numerous workers in the rubble.

After a six-month investigation, OSHA issued a willful citation under the General Duty clause with $120,000 in proposed penalties, and placed the company in the Severe Violators Program. The company will face enhanced inspections and possible fines for future violations.

OSHA said an overloaded truss on the east side of the facility collapsed, causing a superstructure to collapse into the building. Two employees working on lower floors were killed; rescuers were able to save everyone else.

OSHA said there were nine bins on the upper floor, and they normally held ingredients used to create animal feed. The company uses limestone as part of its manufacturing operations, and had filled two of the bins with limestone. That was not a problem, apparently. However, workers began to fill another two bins with limestone, OSHA said, and this additional weight eventually caused the tragic structural collapse.

The company, for its part, issued a statement vowing to cooperate with OSHA, but denied intentional wrongdoing and prior knowledge of the hazardous condition. It noted that the company was fined under General Duty, not a specific OSHA regulation.

Take home for safety managers: Companies need to be aware of the tendency of workers to change procedures on the fly. Too often workers can think “OK, we made the switch and the sky didn’t fall.” That of course works — until it doesn’t. Whether intentional or not, the company should have been more aware of changed procedures.

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