Imperial Sugar defends safety record, challenges OSHA citations, allegations - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Imperial Sugar defends safety record, challenges OSHA citations, allegations

From Imperial Sugar:

Port Wentworth, GA - With the Senate poised to address the issue of combustible dust standards this coming week, Imperial Sugar today challenged public statements made by OSHA in their release of citations and allegations against the company late last week.  Imperial has already filed a "notice of contest" of the citations, but also wanted the public record to reflect Imperial's ongoing and steadfast commitment to workplace safety.

"Imperial shares a mission with OSHA:  the safety of our employees in the workplace," said CEO and President John Sheptor.  "Imperial has and will continue to prioritize improving safety at our facilities."

OSHA released its citations and held a press conference just two days before the Senate hearing on combustible dust standards.  During the media event, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. and others made a number of accusations about Imperial Sugar and its commitment to safety in the workplace.  Sheptor responded as follows:  "We do not believe the facts support OSHA's allegations.  We are extremely disappointed in the remarks made by OSHA as they failed to appreciate the measures taken by the Company prior to the February 7 tragedy to address hazards, including combustible dust.  OSHA's comments also do not reflect the commitment the Company has made to create the safest workplace possible."

Sheptor specifically took issue with OSHA's remarks about the Company's Gramercy facility.  Although OSHA suggested Imperial Sugar had done nothing to improve safety at the Gramercy facility after the event in Port Wentworth, in fact, Imperial quickly worked to address concerns, including preemptively shutting down the powdered sugar operations, which remains closed while the Company ensures that it has taken all appropriate measures to ensure safe operation. 

Sheptor noted that OSHA's National Emphasis Program on combustible dust was first published in October of 2007, and that Imperial Sugar implemented an action plan at Port Wentworth in response to the program, much of which was completed prior to the February 7 explosion.  "While we believe that the Company did respond appropriately to the National Emphasis Program, we also think a clear and comprehensive OSHA standard that specifically addresses combustible dust would further workplace safety by placing employers and employees on appropriate notice of what the hazards are and the means to prevent them."

"Imperial Sugar has spent millions of dollars in capital investment to enhance safety programs and to reduce the threat of combustible dust.  We will commit millions more to further enhance safety.  We disagree strongly with OSHA's claims and we look forward to presenting the facts that show our commitment to safety - both before the February 7 accident and afterwards.  At the same time, we also welcome the opportunity to work with OSHA to improve safety at our facilities and other employers, including assisting OSHA in promulgating a combustible dust standard," said Sheptor.

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