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OSHA investigates deadly fire, collapse of Omaha livestock feed plant

Posted On: Jan. 23, 2014 12:00 AM CST

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is investigating the partial collapse of an Omaha, Neb.-based livestock feed manufacturing plant that killed two employees and seriously injured 10 more.

A spokeswoman for the agency said Thursday that OSHA inspectors likely would spend several more days at the plant site before concluding the investigation.

“During the course of the investigation, they will be determining if any safety and health violations of OSHA standards contributed to the incident or the injuries/fatalities,” the spokeswoman said Thursday in an email to Business Insurance. “These may include structural hazards, grain handling hazards, protective equipment and several others as they may be identified during the investigative process.”

The manufacturing plant's owners, Omaha-based International Nutrition Inc., declined Thursday to speak directly with Business Insurance about the accident, but did provide a written statement from company President Steven J. Silver.

“In our more than 35 years of doing business, this is the most serious incident to ever happen at our operation, and we are fully cooperating with all government investigators to find the cause,” Mr. Silver said in his statement. “In the coming days we will assess the damage and explore alternate methods of meeting our customers' needs. In the meantime, our focus remains on the well-being of employees and the search for the cause of this terrible accident.”

Thirty-eight employees were inside International Nutrition's plant Monday morning when Omaha firefighters received the first reports of a possible explosion and fire in the building.

“Right now we're classifying this as an industrial accident that resulted in a structural fire as well as a significant structural collapse within the building,” interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said in a televised news conference Monday. “Portions of the building had collapsed. There were victims trying to escape the building when we arrived.”

Two employees were found dead in the wreckage of the plant Tuesday. Local hospitals treated an additional 10 employees for injuries sustained in the collapse, with four admitted in critical condition, the fire chief said during the news conference.

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Since its incorporation in 1974, International Nutrition has incurred 35 citations for violating federal workplace safety standards, according to OSHA records.

Most recently, a November 2011 inspection of the plant resulted in six serious workplace safety violations carrying more than $19,000 in fines. International Nutrition agreed to pay $10,430 to settle the violations in January 2012.

In 2002, the company paid $13,600 to settle a series of safety violations stemming from the death of a maintenance worker who was killed after falling into a mixing tank, according to OSHA's records.