Should OSHA take some responsibility for explosion? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Should OSHA take some responsibility for explosion?

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's the question that many are still asking: could the explosion at Imperial Sugar been prevented? Some say yes, but then there's the question who's really to blame? Is it Imperial Sugar, OSHA or both?  And is the almost $9 million fine from OSHA too much?

Layfattee Chester thinks so. He worked at the plant for 37 years before he retired. "I was shocked. I was really shocked," said Chester about the fine.

Chester was not only shocked at the amount, but shocked that OSHA isn't taking any responsibility for what happened. "I believe that OSHA once they find a bad spot they need to follow it up," said Chester,  "Don't come in one week and come in no more. They need to make sure it's been done."

Chester's not alone in feeling this way. Congressman John Barrow agrees to an extent. "OSHA doesn't have the man power to tell folks what they need to do in a case by case basis. What we should be doing is this: regulation," said Congressman Barrow, "and tell the industrial economy as a whole this is what you need to do to prevent this sort of thing."

It would seem that's already in place, but Congressman Barrow says the standards OSHA set are more than 30 years old and they don't address the needs of the industrial economy and that's what needs to change.

Just weeks after the explosion he introduced legislation that will do just that. "There are 30,000 something plants in this country that produce combustible dust, that's explosive atmosphere's on an industrial scale, and the outcome in one case is a clear guide at what should be done in a lot of cases but just coming down hard on Imperial Sugar is not going to get the job done," said Congressman Barrow.

Barrow says what we have are good standards that aren't mandatory and mandatory standards that aren't any good.

The House has already passed Barrow's bill and now it will be up to the Senate to back it as well.

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