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Was building collapse a work-related injury waiting to happen?

Illinois readers may have heard about a collapse at an out-of-state industrial building has left investigators for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with conflicting witness reports. At present, no one is sure whether the collapse sounded like an explosion, or there was an explosion before the building came down. It appears that, either way, it was a work-related injury waiting to happen.

Two people died and several more were injured when the top two floors of the building collapsed. Firefighters retrieved the body of one of the victims, but the recovery of the other victim took nearly eight hours and a special search and rescue team. That same team escorted OSHA investigators into the site. It could take some time to sift through the rubble to determine exactly what went wrong.

The Nebraska company produces nutritional supplements for poultry and livestock feed. One of the theories regarding the incident is that a combustible dust produced by the company's processes caused an explosion that brought the building down. This would be consistent with the statements of some witnesses who heard an explosion before the incident. However, other witnesses believe the fire and noise were associated with the collapse itself. For this reason, structural issues with the building are an alternate theory behind the collapse.

OSHA has six months to complete its investigation. During that time, the injured workers and the families of the deceased workers will be recovering from their injuries and mourning the loss of their loved ones. As would be the case here in Illinois, workers' compensation benefits are available to those suffering from a work-related injury to cover such items as medical costs and compensation for lost wages. Moreover, the families of the deceased victims are entitled to a compensation package that includes benefits such as funeral and burial costs as well as a lost income package for covered dependents.

Source:, OSHA seeking cause of Omaha industrial accident, Margery A. Beck, Jan. 22, 2014

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