OSHA Investigating Rockmart, GA Plant Explosion

Rockmart Feed Mill Explosion Kills One, Injures Five; OSHA Investigates

Employers have a duty to follow OSHA regulations and provide a safe environment for workers. Unfortunately, not all employers take this obligation seriously. Even in the best of circumstances, some jobs are more hazardous than others.

That proved to be the case for night-shift workers at JCG Farms, a Polk County mill that processes chicken feed. On February 7, 2016, an explosion rocked the mill at approximately 2:30 in the morning, resulting in one fatality. One worker is in critical condition, and another sustained severe burns requiring treatment at Grady Medical Center in Atlanta.

OSHA and ATF Launch Investigation

Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives arrived at the scene on February 8, but they could not enter the building right away. Because the explosion caused a structural collapse, engineers are concerned about the safety of fire marshals, law-enforcement personnel, and federal agents.

Cause of Explosion Unknown

Investigators still do not know what caused the explosion, but some speculate the accident occurred due to a natural gas leak or a buildup of dust inside the mill. In 2005, OSHA issued a safety bulletin alerting employers to the hazards associated with combustible dust. Under the right conditions, accumulated dust ignites and causes explosions, harming workers and causing millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.

Employers Must Follow OSHA Standards

According to OSHA regulations, specifically 29 CFR 1910.272, any employer involved in grain-handling activities must have an emergency action plan for employees to follow in the event of an explosion. Every employer in this industry must also establish a housekeeping program to address the issue of fugitive grain dust, which refers to combustible dust particles.

Second Explosion in Five Years

Surprisingly, this is not the first explosion to occur at JCG Farms. Sometime within the last five years, combustible dust caused a small explosion at the same site. The previous explosion did not result in any fatalities.

Unfortunately, Rockmart is no stranger to occupational explosions. In 2013, a 56-year-old woman died after an explosion at Meggitt Polymers & Composites. Investigators determined the explosion occurred due to an unexpected release of pressure by a machine used to sterilize equipment.

Feed Mills Have Hazardous Conditions

Combustible dust isn’t the only hazard present at feed mills and other grain-handling facilities. Employees work with conveyors, augers, and other machines that have hazardous parts, putting them at risk for severe cuts, accidental amputations, and eye injuries. Serious injuries often occur due to falls from ladders, platforms, unguarded catwalks, and floor openings. Workers may also be exposed to mold, pesticides, and other environmental hazards, causing skin rashes, eye irritation, and breathing problems.

Employees Have the Right to a Safe Work Environment

Although investigators have not determined the cause of this explosion, many workplace accidents occur because employers do not take employee safety seriously. If you sustained an injury on the job, we may be able to help. Contact Butler Law Firm at (404) 587-8423 to speak to one of our Atlanta injury law attorneys.