The Journal Gazette
Saturday, June 22, 2019 1:00 am

Before man died, plant paid fines

$9,000 to settle safety violations at Bluffton firm


The Bluffton plant where an Ohio man died this week in an industrial accident was fined in April for safety violations, according to online records of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Ryan West, 42, of Bainbridge, Ohio, was trapped in machinery Wednesday while working at the Valero Renewable Fuels ethanol plant at 1441 S. Adams St. in Bluffton, authorities said.

In April, the plant was fined $9,000 by OSHA, $4,500 for each of two serious violations, after an inspection, according to the records. Another serious violation was found, but it did not result in a fine. 

The inspection came after a referral, which means that someone was concerned about safety conditions. The complaint was made in late February. The case remains open.

The online records do not provide a narrative about the violations at the facility. But two of the violations, one of which did not result in a fine, involved lockout-tagout procedures, which ensure a machine will not engage accidentally. The other involved unspecified general machinery precautions.

The violations are not the only ones at the plant, according to online records.

In 2011, when the plant was owned by Green Plains Renewable Energy, a serious violation regarding oxygen-gas welding and cutting brought a $1,500 fine, later reduced to $975 in an informal settlement.

In January 2012, a safety inspection was conducted, but the case was closed eight days later without a fine.

West was not an employee of Valero but was an outside contractor working for Diversified Industrial Services of Leesburg, Ohio, according to a company statement issued Wednesday. West was performing maintenance work on a large auger, authorities said.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection of the facility this week after being contacted by the company, state Department of Labor officials confirmed. 

In its statement on Wednesday, the company said it was cooperating with investigations by state and local officials.

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