Combustible dust is being investigated as a possible cause of the January 20 explosion and collapse of a livestock feed manufacturing plant in Omaha, NE.
"Staff from my department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation. There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
A Wall St. Journal article and several local media reports have stated that grain dust may have ignited and caused the explosion at the plant. There are also reports that the explosion may have been caused by a roof collapse.
Perez issued the following statement regarding the January 20 catastrophe that killed two employees and seriously injured 10 more:
"My deepest condolences go out to the families and communities that lost loved ones in the tragedy at International Nutrition Inc. in Omaha. It is heartbreaking when workers lose their lives while providing for their families.
"Staff from my department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation. There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster, but I am confident that the answers provided by federal, state, and local officials can offer lessons that will help avoid tragedies like this one in the future."
“During the course of the investigation, they will be determining if any safety and health violations of OSHA standards contributed to the incident or the injuries/fatalities,” an OSHA spokesman said Thursday. “These may include structural hazards, grain-handling hazards, protective equipment, and several others as they may be identified during the investigative process.”
International Nutrition Inc. company president had this to say about the accident: “In our more than 35 years of doing business, this is the most serious incident to ever happen at our operation, and we are fully cooperating with all government investigators to find the cause. In the coming days we will assess the damage and explore alternate methods of meeting our customers' needs. In the meantime, our focus remains on the well-being of employees and the search for the cause of this terrible accident.”
“Right now we're classifying this as an industrial accident that resulted in a structural fire, as well as a significant structural collapse within the building,” interim fire chief Bernie Kanger said in a televised news conference Monday. “Portions of the building had collapsed. There were victims trying to escape the building when we arrived.”
Thirty-eight employees were inside the plant when reports of a possible explosion and fire in the building surfaced. Two employees were found dead in the wreckage of the plant Tuesday. Ten more employees were treated at local hospitals, four of whom were admitted in critical condition.
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