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Collapsed Tyson silo not checked for safety in 19 years

Published on 14 December, 2010, Last updated at 21:51 GMT

Federal safety regulators had not conducted an inspection in nearly 20 years at a southwest Arkansas grain silo that collapsed and killed a Tyson Foods Inc. worker last week, according to documents from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Texarkana Gazette reported that the documents show the silo in Nashville had not been inspected since 1991. The mill has about 30 employees, and OSHA spokesman Juan Rodriguez told the newspaper that its inspectors usually don't schedule visits to sites with fewer than 40 workers.

The federal agency is investigating the cause of the collapse. Tyson closed its Nashville feed mill after the accident so other structures at the site could be inspected.

The 1991 inspection resulted in Springdale-based Tyson being assessed a $750 fine for not having an eye flush station or an emergency shower.

The collapse last Thursday killed Johnny Needham, 48, of Lockesburg, whose job was to unload railcars. It took more than 12 hours to retrieve his body from the mass of corn and concrete that tumbled from the silo. A cadaver-sniffing dog located Needham's corpse.

The death is the sixth in Arkansas in the last decade at facilities owned by Springdale-based Tyson Foods.

In 2001, a worker at a Tyson poultry processing plant in Nashville was crushed by machinery, Tyson and was assessed a $5,000 penalty by OSHA. Also in 2001, a Tyson worker at a Green Forest poultry processing plant died after being struck by equipment.

In 2003, a worker at a Tyson animal foods plant was killed when hydrogen sulfide gas escaped from a poultry feather cooker. Three more workers were injured and OSHA fined Tyson $190,000.

In 2006, a worker fell 30 feet from a platform at a Russellville distribution center. Also that year, a Tyson worker in Van Buren died after being hit by a truck.

Tyson Foods issued a statement after Needham's death pledging cooperation with authorities investigating the cause of the collapse.

Needham's sister, Becky Needham, told Shreveport, La., television station KSLA that she'll miss her brother. She said he loved animals and enjoyed working at the Tyson mill.

"He loved his job. I think it was rough some times, but he got up and went to work every day and he was happy there,'' Needham said. "He was just a good all-around guy. He would do anything for you. I know he has helped me a lot. We all are going to miss him.''


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