Nebraska biofuels facility cited for exposing workers to serious electrical hazards

RP news wires

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued biofuel company Next Step Burwell LLC of Burwell, Neb., five serious citations and one willful citation for exposing employees to electrical hazards and failing to adequately train workers.

OSHA cited the company following an investigation of an incident in which two workers were subjected to electric shock. A Next Step employee was shocked after being instructed to clean out a charged electrical wiring cable tray in which a combination of rain water and corn stalk dust had been allowed to accumulate. Subsequently, a subcontracted employee was fatally electrocuted after being asked to check the cable tray.

"Hazards associated with handling live electrical wiring must be addressed and mitigated," said Charles Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "It is imperative that employers take all necessary steps to de-energize and lock out equipment, and provide proper training for workers so easily preventable incidents like this don't happen."

Serious citations were issued for failing to inform subcontracted employees of lockout/tagout procedures to prevent accidental start-up of machinery; failing to ensure that an adequate group lockout system was employed; allowing an unqualified person to work on or around energized circuits or equipment; a lack of guardrails on the floor area where the cable tray was accessed; and failure to guard or cap a rotating shaft end that presented an entanglement hazard. A serious citation is issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The willful violation relates to the employer's failure to de-energize live parts when an employee may have been working in the vicinity. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Next Step Burwell LLC faces $60,000 in penalties. It has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Omaha, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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