Worker dies after fall at La Belle, Missouri, dairy farm
2nd death since 2012 at a Sharpe Holdings' business
LA BELLE, Mo. A 35-year-old worker doing maintenance on an overhead door's pulleys died after he fell off a 12-foot ladder onto a concrete floor at a dairy farm in La Belle, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has concluded. An OSHA investigation of the Sept. 1, 2014, incident identified eight serious safety violations, including failing to de-energize equipment, confined space and chemical hazards.
It was the second fatality reported since 2012 at a business owned by Sharpe Holdings Inc., based in Bethel.
"This is the second employee death since 2012. Sharpe Holdings' injury and illness rate raises a serious concern that safety and health is not its priority," said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. "Agricultural facilities can be dangerous work environments, and employers must ensure that workers are trained to recognize and avoid preventable hazards."
OSHA's inspection found that power to the overhead door had not been turned off, which exposed employees to electrical and struck-by hazards during maintenance. A 20-stall animal carousel was also not powered down during maintenance, and electrical boxes lacked covers, putting workers at risk of electrocution.
The agency determined that Sharpe Holdings lacked adequate safety procedures for entering permit-required confined spaces for cleaning and maintenance. By doing so, workers were exposed to dangerous chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and decomposition products from grain, silage and manure stored in grain and feed bins and storage tanks. Oxygen levels in confined spaces can be depleted due to organic breakdown of feed, grain, silage and manure.
A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.
Inspectors also noted that Sharpe Holdings had an inadequate respiratory protection program for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde. The company also failed to train workers on hazardous chemicals, using personal protective equipment to limit exposure and properly labeling chemical containers.
Eight serious citations were issued for these and other violations. Proposed penalties total $54,500. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
Sharpe Holdings comprises an array of businesses in northeast Missouri, including a dairy and creamery, farm, concrete plant, auto repair, welding shop, restaurants and lodging, a telecommunications company, graphic design firm and a convenience store.
The company has contested the findings and may appear before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4249.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.