Monday, March 17, 2008

Imperial Sugar in the News Again

After Georgia blast, problems found at Imperial Sugar's La. plant

"There was a very thick dust level," said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., the assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA. The dust, he said, caused an "imminent danger situation."

Experts believe the Feb. 7 blast at Imperial's Georgia refinery outside Savannah was caused by ignited dust. The disaster has prompted OSHA to inspect hundreds of plants where combustible dust is a workplace hazard.

On Friday, OSHA posted a notice warning workers at the Gramercy plant of the "imminent danger."

"The company agreed to withdraw the employees and deactivate the equipment" for dust removal and cleanup, Foulke said. He said it would probably take several days to clean up the dust.

"I'm a little bit disappointed" with Imperial Sugar given what happened in Savannah, Foulke said.

John Sheptor, the president and CEO of Imperial Sugar, said the company is "proceeding with an abundance of caution at the Gramercy facility" because of the Georgia refinery explosion.

He said OSHA's inspections have helped the company "develop improved practices for sugar dust management."

Maybe the questions that should be ask are:

  1. How did they find out about the issue? It wasn't the company if there were imminent danger orders.
  2. Why did they need to use such force as the imminent danger order (an order from the courts) if they were in agreement? Maybe they were not in agreement until the order was placed?
  3. Why was this not done voluntarily? If voluntary compliance was working and they learned from their mistakes there would be no need for a court order.

Well I think the scenario went more like this...
  1. Someone informed OSHA of the issue.
  2. Imperial was ask to shut down until things were safe.
  3. Imperial Refused.
  4. OSHA got the imminent danger order.
  5. Imperial agreed to shut down.
Imperial Sugar has joined the ranks of those who value profits over people and gained our virtual Scarlet Letter. Mama would be proud!

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