American Crystal faces fines over alleged safety violations
EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- Workplace safety officials have been investigating what they say were several safety violations at American Crystal Sugar's East Grand Forks factory this year.
According to online records with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, inspectors found 26 violations of safety requirements at the facility during an April 9 inspection, including 22 classified as serious.
The alleged violations have not been resolved, as American Crystal is contesting some of the citations.
"We're in ongoing discussions with OSHA," said American Crystal Vice President for Administration Brian Ingulsrud. "We look at them as a resource to improve safety at our factories."
Minnesota OSHA inspectors identified the alleged violations during a routine site visit, according to James Honerman, communications director with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
"OSHA may conduct routine or planned inspections of certain industries -- at a minimum -- every two years," Honerman wrote Thursday in an email.
The alleged violations from the inspection included processes for handling hazardous chemicals, hazardous waste operations, air contaminants, carbon monoxide monitoring, labeling of hazardous substances, wiring standards, and requirements for machines, stairs and ladders, power tools and welding equipment, according to online records.
Fines for those alleged violations could amount to more than $49,000 for the company.
American Crystal Sugar paid $7,000 in fines from an April 2 inspection that came after two workers were burned when they fell into a pit containing a "mud slurry" of water, sugar and other material that can reach temperatures between 176 and 185 degrees, according to an OSHA inspection report.
Honerman said American Crystal was cited for not having proper guards over the pit, and it paid the fine and fixed the hazard.
OSHA also inspected the East Grand Forks factory in February after a worker was burned by hot liquid Jan. 29. American Crystal faces $20,200 in fines for four violations from that inspection, but the company is contesting the alleged violations, according to records.
Strom Engineering, a supplier of replacement workers during American Crystal's 2011-13 lockout of its union workers, also is contesting a $7,000 fine related to the January incident.
Honerman said Minnesota OSHA officials cannot comment or provide details on violations before they are resolved.
Ingulsrud said inspections and citations are a normal part of business, though the company does not always agree with inspections' findings.
"Some of the things they note we agree with and some of the things we don't," he said Thursday. "Ultimately, our priority is employee safety."