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October 06, 2023
Pennsylvania candy maker cited in gas leak explosion

Pennsylvania candy maker R.M. Palmer Co. failed to evacuate its employees after some reported smelling gas before a March 2023 explosion that killed seven workers at the company’s West Reading facility, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced October 5.

The agency has cited R.M. Palmer with three serious and five other-than-serious workplace safety and recordkeeping and reporting violations. OSHA cited the company under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for not evacuating workers. The agency also cited R.M. Palmer for not marking emergency exit signs clearly and using flexible cords improperly, along with the recordkeeping violations.

OSHA opened its investigation following the explosion and seven fatalities and learned that R.M. Palmer did not evacuate workers from the manufacturing plant despite workers’ concerns about what OSHA later determined was a natural gas leak.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the natural gas-fueled explosion and fire at the West Reading facility.

“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,” Kevin T. Chambers, OSHA’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area office director, said in an agency statement. “Ensuring the safety of a workplace is expected of employers and required by law. The company could have prevented this horrific tragedy by following required safety procedures.”   

R.M. Palmer Co., headquartered in West Reading, has manufactured chocolate and other confections at its Pennsylvania facility since 1948, according to OSHA. The company produces, packages, and ships more than 500 types of products throughout North America.

NJ contractor agrees to pay $180K OSHA fine

The Department of Labor (DOL) has entered into a settlement agreement with a New Jersey building contractor who allowed subcontractors’ employees to work in close proximity to high-voltage power lines at a Paterson, New Jersey, worksite in 2021 and 2022, OSHA announced October 3.

Litana Development Inc. of Wayne, New Jersey, has agreed to pay $180,000 in penalties to settle OSHA citations for allowing employees of four subcontractors—Elite Brothers Construction LLC of Paterson, Freitas Construction LLC of Carteret, Konopka Construction Inc. of Hillside, and Prata Construction LLC of Denville—to be exposed to potentially deadly electrical hazards.

In a 2021 inspection, OSHA found that Litana Development, acting as the general contractor, permitted workers to erect scaffolds and work between 5 and 7 feet from live power lines. OSHA issued two willful citations to Litana and two willful citations to its subcontractors. Inspectors returned on multiple occasions in 2022 and found workers still exposed to the same hazards.

OSHA posted an imminent danger notice at the worksite, and the DOL’s Office of the Solicitor obtained a temporary restraining order in federal court and then a consent injunction, ordering Litana and its subcontractors to stop all work within 11 feet of the power lines.

Under the settlement agreement, Litana Development must employ enhanced abatement measures, including the following: 

  • Creating a written site safety plan and then submitting the plan to OSHA;
  • Retaining a qualified safety professional to complete a job hazard analysis for all existing and future worksites;
  • Informing OSHA of all its current and future worksites; and
  • Implementing a subcontractor management plan, including a requirement that on-site managers of subcontractors complete 30-hour OSHA training and on-site employees of subcontractors complete 10-hour OSHA training.

“This settlement holds Litana Development Inc. responsible for its failures and will make the company’s job sites safer for the people who work at them,” Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s New York regional administrator, said in a statement.

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