Chocolate factory fined $44,000 for not evacuating workers before gas explosion that killed 7

R.M. Palmer Co. ignored a gas leak reported at its chocolate factory in West Reading, Pa., failed to evacuate the facility, and the resulting explosion killed seven workers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a $44,000 fine.

"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," OSHA Area Director Kevin T. Chambers, of the agency's Harrisburg office, said in a written statement. "The company could have prevented this horrific tragedy by following required safety procedures."

Palmer denied it violated any workplace safety standards and said it would contest the OSHA citations, which the company said are "legally and factually unsupported."

$6,285 for each death. Though the money is a pittance, the ruling tees up the survivors and families to dunk the company in civil lawsuits. Another criticism is that this is a poor substitute for the criminal prosecutions and regulatory changes that should also be happening. Palmers specializes in holiday chocolate: the waxy sort that leaves a film coming in and going out.