The federal government sharply reduced fines and dropped the severity of citations in a pending settlement of labor complaints brought after a deadly explosion at an Atchison, Kan., grain elevator six years ago.
Bartlett Grain Co., based in Kansas City, agreed to $182,000 in fines, safety audits and improvements at all of its 20 grain handling facilities in six states, said an announcement by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA had proposed $406,000 in fines against Bartlett in relation to the Oct. 29, 2011, explosion that killed six workers.
The settlement agreement, dated Dec. 15, is subject to a 10-day comment period and requires approval by an administrative law judge to become final. An OSHA spokesman said the agency would not comment on the case it considers still to be open.
Officials at Bartlett Grain could not be reached immediately.
In the settlement, OSHA eliminated $224,000 in proposed fines by withdrawing parts of some citations and reducing the fine in one. OSHA also reduced language in some parts of the citations from “serious” to “other than serious” and from “willful” to “unclassified.”
The document also said that the settlement “shall not be construed in any way that respondent (Bartlett Grain) violated” the OHSA Act or standards under it.
Federal prosecutors previously declined to file any criminal charges in connection with the explosion. A civil suit brought by family members of those killed was settled previously.
Kevin Bock, whose stepson Chad Roberts was killed, said the settlement was about what he’d expected from OSHA but not what he wanted. He noted that the agreement covers all of Bartlett’s operations.
“I’m not happy with some of it, especially the willful” language change to unclassified, Bock said.
Families were not part of the federal labor action taken against the company.
OSHA’s announcement said Bartlett Grain agreed to “invest in its employees, and work with OSHA to follow best practices, and make significant changes at its facilities nationwide.”
Bartlett agreed specifically to review its safety and health management system, “consult with industry experts” to audit the effectiveness of its systems, authorize its internal safety manager to stop unsafe operations, get an independent review of its new installations or changes to dust filter collectors and grain stream processing equipment, update its cleanup and preventative maintenance, improve training and send quarterly reports to OSHA every three months for three years.