Archer Daniels Midland agrees to $650,000 fine

Company creates new VP for safety and health

The huge conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has agreed to pay $650,000 in penalties for safety and health violations at its rail car repair facility in Decatur, IL, and to create a new corporate position of vice president of safety and health. The settlement agreement was announced recently by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"We are pleased that ADM has agreed to resolve this matter," OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress said in announcing the settlement. "The company has already corrected the most dangerous conditions involving serious hazards to its employees who were working in confined spaces without proper equipment and assistance. Even more encouraging is the company’s willingness to improve safety and health conditions at all its facilities nationwide."

ADM certified in the settlement that the conditions in the original violations have been corrected and that the vice president of safety and health will be charged with corporatewide authority and responsibility for monitoring the working conditions throughout the company.

OSHA inspected ADM’s rail car facility following an employee complaint that workers were assigned to clean inside rail tank cars without an attendant present.

The confined spaces standard requires the presence of attendants for the sole purpose of monitoring and protecting employees working in a confined space. OSHA inspectors also found that employees working inside the rail cars were wearing body harnesses without attached retrieval lines. Those lines would allow for emergency rescue of employees without exposing others to the confined space.

ADM rolled out corrections companywide

As a result of its investigation, OSHA cited the company Dec. 2, 1998, for violations of the confined spaces and respiratory protection standards, as well as inadequate storage of flammable and combustible materials. Penalties of $1.6 million were initially proposed.

"By correcting the initial problem and creating a new position for oversight on safety and health, ADM has taken a significant first step to improve the safety and health of its workers," Jeffress said. "That tells us they are serious about eliminating safety hazards while, at the same time, showing their employees that management is committed to their welfare."

Under the settlement agreement, ADM will establish and maintain a trained internal confined space rescue team at the rail car facility and will conduct annual internal safety and health compliance audits of that facility for the next three years. Results of those audits will be provided to OSHA’s area office in Peoria, IL.

ADM also will retain an experienced independent consultant to conduct "wall-to-wall" audits of the rail car facility in 18 months. Following the audit, ADM will develop and implement a written action plan to respond to the findings of the audit.

The settlement also requires the employer to make available at the rail car facility forms for employees to complete (anonymously if they choose) regarding any safety concerns. ADM will evaluate and consider all concerns or suggestions. ADM also must review all written policies and procedures regarding confined spaces within 30 days and modify such policies as necessary within 45 days. The vice president of safety and health will issue a corporatewide bulletin to all ADM’s facility managers in the United States directing them to ensure their site-specific confined spaces policy, procedures, and practices are in full compliance with the OSHA standard.

ADM’s corporate headquarters and numerous facilities are in Decatur. The company, which processes and merchandises agricultural commodities and products, employs about 14,000 workers nationwide. Approximately 45 workers are employed at the rail car repair facility.