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Chocolate manufacturer fined after failing to evacuate before gas leak explosion killed seven

10 October 2023

The US Department of Labor has cited a US chocolate maker after an investigation found the company had failed to evacuate employees after some reported smelling gas before a March 2023 explosion. The explosion at the R.M. Palmer chocolate factory in the town of West Reading, around 60 miles (97km) northwest of Philadelphia, killed seven workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into R.M. Palmer found the company did not remove workers from the manufacturing plant despite workers' concerns about what OSHA later determined was a natural gas leak. The agency cited the company under its general duty clause for not evacuating workers. OSHA also cited R.M. Palmer for not marking emergency exit signs clearly, using flexible cords improperly and for recordkeeping violations.

"Seven workers will never return home because the R.M. Palmer Co. did not evacuate the facility after being told of a suspected gas leak," said 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."

Headquartered in West Reading, R.M. Palmer has manufactured chocolate and other confections at its Pennsylvania facility since 1948. The company produces, packages and ships more than 500 types of products to retail locations throughout North America and employs about 850 employees.

You can view the citations against R.M Palmer by clicking here.

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