Archive for Friday, July 30, 2010

Federal authorities cite MagnaGro for 11 violations on day of double fatality

Federal authorities fined the business $73,000.

July 30, 2010, 5:41 p.m. Updated July 30, 2010, 6:36 p.m.


The violations

Here are the 11 violations lodged against MagnaGro International by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

• No fall protection for employees who were accessing the top of the molasses storage tanks. According to documents, employees could have fallen at least 14 feet when jumping from one tank to another.

• No stairs for workers to use while entering the top of the molasses tank.

• Labels, signs or other forms of warning did not designate the molasses tank as a confined space.

• No program was developed to ensure that workers entered the confined space of the molasses tank under safe conditions.

• Procedures were not in place to ventilate the molasses tank, which would have eliminated dangerous gases or vapors before workers entered.

• Equipment was not provided to test, and tests were not done for oxygen content, combustible gases and vapors and toxic gases and vapors before workers entered the molasses tank.

• A system was not set up that would have evaluated the molasses tank for hazardous materials, controlled that hazard and ensured that it was safe to enter.

• No training was provided to employees about how to recognize, evaluate and control hazards when entering the molasses tank.

• A Hazard Communication Program was not created. That program would have made employees aware of the hazards associated with chemicals such as Magna Blend, sulfuric acid, green phosphorus, white phosphorus, cumic acid, folic acid and fermenting molasses.

• Storage tanks containing hazardous chemicals, such as fermented molasses, were not labeled as hazardous.

• Information and training was not provided to employees regarding the hazards associated with chemicals they worked with, such as Magna Blend, sulfuric acid, green phosphorus, white phosphorous, cumic acid, folic acid and fermenting molasses.

MagnaGro International, a Lawrence fertilizer manufacturer, has been cited by federal authorities for 11 violations that occurred the day two employees died last April.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the company has been assessed fines totaling $73,000, and the violations must be fixed by Sept. 1.

The company, however, was shut down on July 21 by city officials, who said MagnaGro had been operating for three years in violation of city codes.

MagnaGro was the site of a double fatality that occurred when two employees — Roy Hillebert, 51, Eudora, and Brandon Price, 25, Lawrence — were overcome by fumes in a storage tank containing fermented molasses. The 11 violations, all of which OSHA described as “serious,” included not providing to employees any protection from falls outside the molasses storage tanks or proper ventilation inside the tanks. In addition, the company had provided no training, or even warnings, about the potential dangers they would encounter when working with the fermenting molasses and other chemicals inside the tanks.

OSHA inspected MagnaGro twice: on April 2, the day following the fatal accident, and on June 1.

The violations were issued on July 16, but they were not released until late Friday afternoon.

Attempts to reach Ray Sawyer, owner of MagnaGro, were not immediately successful.

It’s unclear whether the company has any future in Lawrence, where it has had a tumultuous history.

It’s been involved in a three-year push-and-pull with the city that culminated with last week’s forced closure of the plant. MagnaGro was declared “unfit for human occupancy,” after city leaders decided they wouldn’t give the company’s owner any more time to connect to city water and sewer service.

City officials disconnected water and sewer service from the building in 2007 as federal agents descended upon the facility as part of an investigation into MagnaGro dumping improper waste into the sewer system. In 2009, the company was convicted of that activity and fined $240,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city has refused to reconnect the service unless MagnaGro installs a special monitoring device onto its sewage connection. The company has refused to file for the proper permits to install the monitoring device.

But the city had allowed the company, which blends fertilizers and other plant material, to continue operating despite not complying with city code. City officials previously have said they wanted to work with the company, and had seen indications the business wanted to come into compliance.


kernal 7 years, 10 months ago

Attempts to find which rock Ray Sawyer is hiding under has not yet been successful.

David Lignell 7 years, 10 months ago

Apparently they thought they would save money by not hiring an EOHS professional?

cavtrooper 7 years, 10 months ago

When you strip it down, Ray Sawyer was playing Russian Roulette with his employee's lives. What a guy.... and the city played patti-cake with him for how many years?

BruceWayne 7 years, 10 months ago

strip a little more and you will find the City of Lawrence provided the gun for said game of roulette.

WHY 7 years, 10 months ago

What a cryptic message masked avenger. Please go on and tell us of the conspiracy so that we the public may be outraged.

GardenMomma 7 years, 10 months ago

Maybe he means because it took three years, two deaths, and a federal investigation to close them down? Perhaps if the city had acted more aggressively sooner, the two men would still be alive?

BruceWayne 7 years, 10 months ago

thank you BIG conspiracy.the city paid double to this business for an easemant they wanted. PAID them!

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