116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa OSHA is investigating a Feb. 15 explosion that injured two workers at the Agri Star Meat & Poultry plant in Postville.
The explosion in the dock area of the kosher meat processing plant happened after a forklift punctured a hose leading to a 100-pound liquid propane tank and the gas leak eventually ignited, police said.
The blast hit two men working nearby, causing burns on one worker's face and injuring the other. The plant temporarily lost power and the explosion damaged the dock roof and walls.
Postville Chief Matt Ellis said Tuesday he thinks both men have recovered from their injuries.
Iowa OSHA, the agency charged with enforcing work safety and health standards, started its probe Feb. 17 and aims to finish by mid-May, said Russell Perry, Iowa OSHA administrator. Some investigations take up to six months, he added.
Agri Star opened in 2009 at the site of the former Agriprocessors Inc. Canadian businessman Hershey Friedman bought the plant and invested $7.5 million to modernize and upgrade before reopening, The Gazette reported in 2010. At that time, Friedman said the plant employed 560 people to produce chicken, turkey and beef products for the retail, food service and deli markets.
In November, ACLU Iowa and seven other worker rights groups filed a federal complaint against Iowa OSHA, saying the agency was not investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants, construction companies and nursing homes.
'With the onset of COVID-19, numerous Iowa workplaces are not properly protecting their workers, and Iowa OSHA is not investigating complaints about those workplaces properly,” ACLU Iowa said in a news release.
'Further, Iowa OSHA has a long history of not adequately investigating serious and life-threatening work conditions.”
In September, Perry approved a $957 settlement with Iowa Premium Beef, in Tama, for failing to keep a log of work injuries and illnesses and not turning over the document within four hours after inspectors asked for it, the Associated Press reported. More than one-third of the plant's 880 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020, but initial reports of the outbreak had lower numbers because of reporting errors.
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