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Denver-Based Company Fined $7,000 For Death At Wyoming Plant

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Western Sugar Cooperative has paid a $7,000 fine in connection with a workplace accident that killed a woman at its beet-processing plant in Lovell early this year.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services issued citations to Western Sugar alleging 12 violations following the January death of 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff. She died after falling through an open floor opening into beet-processing equipment.

John Ysebaert, administrator of the department's Office of Standards and Compliance, said Western Sugar agreed to pay $7,000 for leaving open a floor panel that Galaktionoff fell through. The company agreed to pay $37,500 for the other citations.

No state safety inspectors ever had visited the Lovell plant before the accident, officials told The Associated Press this summer.

"To not have a place ever inspected, the rotation time obviously is too long," Gov. Matt Mead said in a recent interview.

Wyoming is perennially among the top states in workplace fatalities. A report issued by the AFL-CIO this summer based on 2012 figures stated that Wyoming, with 12.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers, was second behind North Dakota, which had 17.7 per 100,000.

Kent Wimmer, spokesman for Denver-based Western Sugar, said Monday the firm is working "with all regulatory agencies to make our facilities as safe as we possibly can for all our employees and strive to that end."

Ysebaert said Western Sugar agreed to have all its workers go through 30 hours of safety training on hazard recognition and awareness. The company also will undertake a self-inspection program and will submit the results to the state periodically.

Western Sugar, formed in 2002, is comprised of 1,400 grower-owners in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. The Lovell plant, bought in 2002, employs about 50 people, and adds 70 seasonal workers during the winter beet-harvest months.

In recent years, the cooperative has been hit with numerous other citations at its facilities.

Last year, federal workplace safety inspectors in Montana proposed fining Western Sugar $193,000 after a January 2013 inspection at a Billings plant. They alleged repeat safety violations including lack of guardrails on elevated platforms. The penalties ultimately were reduced to $117,250.

The Montana office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office stated last year that OSHA had inspected Western Sugar operations 16 times since February 2008 and found 30 violations in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

In addition to the Lovell plant, Western Sugar operates a plant in Torrington, Wyoming.

- By BEN NEARY, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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