A welder who suffered third-degree burns and other serious injuries when airborne dust exploded inside a pet food manufacturing plant has filed a personal-injury lawsuit against Nestle Purina Petcare.
The plaintiff, Andre Buschmann, is a welding supervisor for Arizona Equipment Fabrication. He was repairing holes in the Purina plant’s grain elevators when high concentrations of the grain dust in the air ignited.
In addition to third-degree burns to his face, head, neck, ears, and back, Mr. Buschmann was also badly bruised and suffers from hearing loss and smoke inhalation injuries as a result of the explosion. Mr. Buschmann also alleges the incident left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Courthouse News reported, citing his lawsuit.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) names combustible dust as one of the leading causes of workplace injuries in the U.S. The agency has strict regulations for mitigating combustible atmospheric dust, which can result from about two dozen different substances. High concentrations of dust in an enclosed space become explosive when combined with oxygen and a heat source.
“The employer did not properly assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment when conducting hot work with a potential of combustible dust explosion,” OSHA stated in its citation. The agency hit Purina with a $5,000 penalty, which the multi-billion company disputed.
The Industrial Commission of Arizona reviewed and upheld OSHA’s citation, but the agency and Nestle Purina settled when the company agreed to pay $3,500 and make safety improvements within the Flagstaff plant.
OSHA officials have cited Nestle for a dozen health and safety violations in the past five years, with penalties totaling about $17,000, Courthouse News reported. Far too often lenient penalties encourage corporations to become repeat offenders rather than invest in costly repairs and other potentially life-saving safety improvements.
Source: Courthouse News Service