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Heartland Dairy has third fatality in three years

Missouri’s largest dairy suffered its third work-related fatality in three years earlier this week. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating a death that occurred Monday at Sharpe Holdings dairy and cattle farm, also known as Heartland Dairy, which is located near LaBelle, Mo.

OSHA Spokesperson Rhonda Burke said the investigation was opened yesterday.

“The initial reports indicate that the 51-year-old worker was ejected from the back of a company vehicle, believed to be a mini-van, on Saturday and he sustained head injuries in that accident. He died Monday of those head injuries,” Burke said.

The OSHA press release states that motor vehicle incidents accounted for two of every five fatal work injuries in 2013. Burke said OSHA has very specific guidelines for preventing such incidents, such as enforcing mandatory seatbelt use and providing vehicle-specific training to workers.

“OSHA believes all workplace injuries and deaths are preventable if employers follow proper workplace procedures,” Burke said. “In particular, agricultural facilities can be extremely dangerous work environments because they naturally have many many hazards to them. Sharpe Holdings has a responsibility to make sure they know how to protect their workers and keep them safe on the job.”

The first of the three fatalities occurred at Heartland Dairy in 2012, when a worker was hit by equipment at the company’s auto repair facility. In September of 2014, a second worker fell off a 12-foot ladder and died. Burke said falls are actually the leading cause of workplace deaths in the U.S.

Since 2012, Sharpe Holdings has been issued 37 violations and inspected by OSHA five time, according to the OSHA press release.

“Because this is the third fatality experience at Sharpe Holding in recent years, we would hope that Sharpe is taking a very close look at its safety and health procedures and training for its workers to ensure that they are being protected from workplace hazards,” Burke said.

Burke said that according to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, 12 American workers are killed on the job each day.

KBIA published a special long-form story last October on Heartland, the intentional Christian community where the dairy is located. To read more, click here.

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