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OSHA cites farmers' co-op after worker dies from toxic exposure

Farmers in Iowa may be familiar with the fertilizer anhydrous ammonia. It's a clear and odorless gas that can increase crop yields when applied to soil. Anhydrous ammonia can also be extremely toxic and corrosive to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that breathing even a small amount of the gas can cause vomiting, burns and stomach pain. The gas is also explosive, and heavy exposure can result in death.

Sadly, a truck driver for a Nebraska farmers' cooperative died back in March after a 250-gallon anhydrous ammonia tank ruptured. The 63-year-old worker was transported to a hospital, but he died there having suffered too much toxic exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the accident and recently cited the Midwest Farmers Cooperative for safety violations. In particular, investigators found that the co-op had failed to properly store and handle the noxious compound.

Three other individuals were injured in connection with the accident, and OSHA has suggested more than $62,000 in penalties against the company.

The co-op plans to contest the citations.

When a loved one dies in a work-related accident, the grieving family is often left wondering where to turn. An OSHA investigation may provide some insight into why an accident happened, but often other questions have to be answered. How will the family account for the lost wages of the deceased? And who will cover the medical bills and final expenses resulting from the accident?

There are legal options for addressing these issues, either through workers' compensation death benefits or a wrongful death claim against a third party.

Source: Sioux City Journal, "Nebraska cooperative cited after worker's death," July 16, 2014

Source: JournalStar.com, "Midwest Farmers Co-op worker dies in ammonia accident," Jonathan Edwards, March 21, 2014

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