Claims Still Pending in Imperial Sugar Plant Explosion Four Years Later
Four years ago, an explosion at a Port Wentworth Imperial Sugar plant killed 14 workers and left many more injured. Today, Imperial Sugar, its insurance companies and contracted workers are still facing civil suits and possible criminal charges.
The cause of the nightmarish explosion is even more tragic for workers when you consider that it was due to the negligence of plant operators. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab said in 2010 that Imperial “cut corners” on safety “to save money.” Reports from dozens of workers show that plant operators allowed sugar dust to collect around the plant, sometimes in drifts so high they’re described as “knee-high.” The sugar dust is highly combustible and contributed to the deadly fire. Had it been taken care of properly, the fire might not have been so destructive.
Imperial Sugar has already paid $4 million to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety violations in their Port Wentworth plant. Imperial Sugar was also fined an additional $86,000 for air and water quality violations. OSHA determined that Imperial Sugar willfully violated safety regulations, meaning they either blatantly disregarded or intentionally violated regulations.
There are currently more than 40 civil lawsuits pending against Imperial Sugar, with injured workers claiming millions of dollars in medical bills. Imperial Sugar also faces possible criminal penalties due to their willful violations of OSHA safety standards that resulted in so many tragic injuries and deaths.
The Imperial Sugar plant explosion is not the only time dust build up has proved deadly in a factory. Five people died last year when a Hoeganaes Corp. plant in Tennessee caught fire due to combustible metal dust build up. Ultimately, say plaintiff’s lawyers involved with the Imperial Sugar case, OSHA needs to have a comprehensive standard regarding dust in factories to prevent this kind of tragic and avoidable accident.
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