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OSHA cites dairy corporation after third worker death


A Missouri dairy company has been designated a severe violator of federal workplace safety standards after its third employee fatality since 2012.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited and proposed penalties totaling $189,000 against Bethel, Missouri-based Sharpe Holdings Inc. after a 51-year-old equipment operator suffered serious head injuries and died following his ejection from the rear of a van in September 2015, the agency said Monday in a statement.

The company has been inspected by OSHA seven times since September 2012, including for two other fatalities and a worker hospitalization. In October 2012, an auto mechanic at a company repair shop died of complications during treatment for injuries inflicted when a tire rim struck him, according to the agency. In September 2014, a worker doing maintenance work on an overhead door's pulleys died after he fell off a 12-foot ladder onto a concrete floor at the dairy farm. In January 2015, a worker was struck by a skid steer, resulting in his hospitalization, according to the agency.

Following the third fatality, Sharpe Holdings was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers who, according to the agency, have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act obligations through willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.

OSHA's investigation into the most recent fatality found the company did not provide safety belts, secure passenger seats or latch the rear doors of the van used on its La Belle, Missouri, cattle and dairy farm. The agency issued one repeat and 17 serious safety violations for risks such as exposure to amputation and other serious injuries while servicing and maintaining equipment, absent guard rails and multiple electrical and confined space hazards, among other exposures.

“Sharpe Holdings is a repeat violator that knowingly refuses to follow basic safety procedures,” Mike Minicky, OSHA's acting area director in St. Louis, said in a statement. “Three people have died while working at this facility in the last five years. This latest tragedy could have been prevented by using common-sense safety devices. Safety is simply not a priority for Sharpe Holdings. OSHA will continue to monitor and inspect this employer to ensure workers are protected on the job.”

A company spokesperson declined to comment.

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