OSHA fines company after Natchez barge worker fell, went missing in Mississippi River

Published 9:36 am Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A company operating in Natchez faces more than $60,000 in fines after a worker fell to his death from a barge in February.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a report on Aug. 17 citing safety violations at the Buzzi Unicem USA facility in Natchez and cited $62,500 in penalties against the company.

Buzzi Unicem USA operates as River Cement Sales Co. and sells brick, stone and related construction materials manufactured at cement plants across the United States.

Email newsletter signup

According to reports, OSHA concluded the company’s negligence placed three of its workers at risk of drowning, particularly due to the absence of mandated personal flotation devices.

Donny Mitchell, 50, of Clayton, Louisiana, fell into the Mississippi River at about 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 8. He was on a barge at the time and was attempting to climb a ladder onto a walkway at the Buzzi Unicem terminal on L.E. Berry Road in Natchez. Rescuers searched for several days before calling off the efforts. Mitchell’s body was recovered from the Mississippi River on March 14.

In its report, OSHA cited the company for five serious violations, ranging from the absence of essential guardrails and first aid training to the lack of an eyewash station.

In a statement to ohsonline.com, OSHA Area Office Director Courtney Bohannon of Jackson said, “Buzzi Unicem USA could have prevented this tragedy by making sure employees wore the personal protective equipment that was readily available. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace. This employer’s failures cost a worker his life and leaves family, friends and loved ones with an unfillable void in their own lives.”

Buzzi Unicem has 15 days to appeal the decision. According to ohsonline.com, the company currently has active in appeals in three cases.