In a tragic incident that took the lives of seven workers, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has uncovered serious safety violations at R.M. Palmer Co.’s candy manufacturing plant in West Reading, Pennsylvania. The federal investigation revealed that the company failed to evacuate employees despite reports of a gas smell before an explosion occurred in March 2023.
Candy Plant Fails to Evacuate After Gas Smell
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the DOL, initiated an investigation that found R.M. Palmer Co. in violation of the general duty clause for not evacuating workers in the face of a suspected natural gas leak. This failure to prioritize the safety of employees resulted in a tragic explosion that claimed the lives of seven individuals. OSHA also cited the company for additional safety lapses, including unclear emergency exit signs, improper use of flexible cords, and recordkeeping violations.
“Seven workers will never return home because R.M. Palmer Co. did not evacuate the facility after being told of a suspected gas leak,” emphasized OSHA Area Director Kevin T. Chambers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “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.”
The citations issued to R.M. Palmer Co. serve as a stark reminder to small and midsize business owners about the critical importance of prioritizing workplace safety. Ignoring potential hazards, failing to evacuate employees in emergencies, and neglecting safety protocols can have severe consequences, not only in terms of human lives but also legally.
R.M. Palmer Co., a well-established chocolate manufacturer with a history dating back to 1948, now faces the repercussions of these safety violations. The company produces, packages, and ships over 500 products to retail locations across North America, employing approximately 850 individuals.
As business owners, it is crucial to recognize that compliance with safety regulations is not just a moral obligation but a legal requirement. The DOL and its agencies, such as OSHA, are vigilant in enforcing workplace safety standards, and violations can lead to serious penalties. In this case, R.M. Palmer Co. has 15 business days to respond to the citations and penalties, including the option to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The tragic incident at R.M. Palmer Co. serves as a solemn reminder that neglecting safety protocols can have devastating consequences. Small and midsize business owners must prioritize employee well-being, adhere to safety regulations, and create a workplace culture that values and ensures the safety of every individual. Compliance is not just a legal requirement but a fundamental responsibility that can ultimately save lives and protect businesses from legal repercussions.