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Peanut company faces OSHA safety penalties

Peanut company faces OSHA safety penalties

A Georgia peanut company has been cited and is facing $110,310 in proposed penalties from federal safety and health regulators for combustible dust, machine guarding and other hazards.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Leesburg, Georgia-based Great Southern Peanut L.L.C. for 13 repeat, four serious and four other-than-serious safety and health violations, the agency said Thursday in a statement.

OSHA initiated a follow-up inspection to verify abatement of hazards from citations the agency issued to Great Southern Peanut and Georgia Farm Services L.L.C. in March 2014, according to the press release.

The repeat citations were for failing to develop and implement procedures to enter a confined space area, keep surfaces free from hazardous accumulations of combustible peanut dust and provide a handrail and railing on a fixed stairway, among other violations, according to the agency.

The serious citations relate to not having the required height for a guard railing system, exposing workers to unguarded horizontal shafts and failing to have stairway risers uniform and consistent, according to the press release.

The other-than-serious citations are for not posting the annual summary of workplace injuries and illnesses recorded on the required OSHA logs, failing to provide medical evaluations for employees required to wear respirators, and failing to provide baseline and annual audiogram testing for employees exposed to noise.

“Great Southern Peanut continues to ignore its responsibility to protect workers from hazards that could potentially result in serious injury or death,” Kimberly Austin acting director of OSHA's Savannah, Georgia, area office, said in a statement. “Employers should not wait for an OSHA inspection to identify hazards; they must be proactive in identifying and removing hazards.”

However, owner William Douglas Wingate challenged several alleged violations referenced by OSHA, including that peanut dust is combustible, noted that the agency did not raise concerns about the horizontal shafts in previous inspections, and said it was wrong for OSHA to publish a press release based on incorrect information.

“We are going to appeal (the citations),” he said. “We have a lot to say about it. Some of the stuff they are saying is wrong.”

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