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R.M. Palmer fined $44K for Lack of Evacuation Before Blast that Killed 7
The chocolate company is under a lot of scrutiny for this incident.
Powder Bulk Solids Staff
October 9, 2023
2 Min Read
The chocolate company said it will contest the recent charges.Image courtesy of Anastassia LAURENT / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Pennsylvania, PA-based R.M. Palmer chocolate factory was fined more than $44,000 by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to evacuate before a natural gas explosion that killed seven people.
The chocolate company did not heed warnings from employees about a natural gas leak, according to OSHA, which issued multiple citations to the company.
"Seven workers will never return home because the R.M. Palmer Co. did not evacuate the facility after being told of a suspected gas leak," OSHA Area Director Kevin T. Chambers, of the agency's Harrisburg, PA office, said in a written statement. "The company could have prevented this horrific tragedy by following required safety procedures."
R.M. Palmer denied it violated any workplace safety standards and said it would contest the OSHA citations, which the company said are "legally and factually unsupported."
According to an OSHA statement, the company claims that service tee was “under a public road,” and notes that the NTSB investigative update “contains no reference to any natural gas leak inside any Palmer building.”
For an explosion that killed seven people, injured several, damaged neighboring properties and displaced many from their jobs, OSHA recommended the penalty of roughly $49,000. That includes a penalty of $4,464 from citations that were issued earlier due to paperwork violations. Still, it is an extremely low number, considering the consequences of the blast.
About 70 Palmer production workers and 35 office staff were working in two adjacent buildings at the time of the March 24 blast. Employees in both buildings told federal investigators they could smell gas before the explosion.
Workers at the plant have accused Palmer of ignoring warnings of a natural gas leak, saying the plant, in a small town 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia, should have been evacuated.
The family of Judith Lopez-Moran, a 55-year-old mother of three, filed a wrongful-death suit against R.M. Palmer Co. after the March 24 blast.
OSHA said that to date, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against R.M. Palmer and UGI Utilities since the accident in March, some from families of victims who died in the explosion.
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