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Cause unknown for workplace accident that killed 2

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles nationwide data on occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths. Seventy-eight people died in Kansas workplace accidents in 2011, translating to 5.9 fatalities for every 100,000 workers. That ranked Kansas among the 10 states with the greatest number of on-the-job deaths.

A horrific industrial accident in a bordering state recently claimed two lives, critically injured four people and hospitalized several more. Seven people were treated on site. It occurred when the top two stories of an animal feed plant collapsed while more than three dozen people were inside the building. The employees who died were on the second floor. The structure's damage was so extensive and the weather conditions so poor that rescue crews were forced to delay the recovery of one worker's body.

International Nutrition Inc. plant workers said they heard cracks and an explosion and saw falling debris and fire. Firefighters rescued several people from the destroyed structure, including a difficult-to-access worker trapped among fallen steel and concrete pieces.

The attending fire chief said that whatever happened inside the plant was "a significant event," but would not confirm whether an explosion triggered the building collapse. Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also were noncommittal about the accident's cause.

International Nutrition has a history of OSHA violations. This wasn't the first time an employee died in a work accident at the plant. In 2002, a worker was killed by an auger after falling into a tank. Seven safety infractions were found after the fatality and 28 additional violations were discovered in inspections over four decades. The most recent violations were reported last year, when OSHA fined the company $10,000.

Workers' compensation benefits are provided to injured employees and survivors of workers killed on the job. Workplace injuries and death caused by third parties – individuals or companies other than an employer – are handled separately through Kansas personal injury or wrongful death claims.

Source: CNN, "Omaha plant fire claims 2 lives, 10 others injured" Steve Almasy and Carma Hassan, Jan. 21, 2014

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