Equity markets plunged late this week as investors beat a hasty retreat to the sidelines.
The carnage began Thursday as the Dow declined 176 points on news of an economic slowdown in China. One day later, the Dow fell more than 300 points to record its lowest close of the year. The S&P 500 followed suit with its largest two-day decline since 2012.
Meanwhile, bitterly cold weather is heating things up in the energy sector. Natural gas futures prices exceeded $5 Friday for the first time in three-and-a-half years. Electricity prices also are on the rise as power utilities struggle to meet higher-than-normal winter demand. And propane soared to record highs this week in the Midwest, costing those who need to fill their tanks 100-to-200 dollars more than just last month.
But even as consumers braced themselves this week for bitterly cold weather, others were more concerned with matters of life and limb.
Federal safety investigators are determining whether structural problems and a dust explosion contributed to an industrial building collapse in Omaha this week that killed two workers and injured 17 others.
Inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, are working with structural engineers and combustible dust experts as part of their investigation into Monday's accident at the International Nutrition building. The plant makes nutritional products that are added to livestock and poultry feed.
Some witnesses reported hearing an explosion before the building's top two floors collapsed into the first floor. But others have suggested that the sound and fire, which burned some workers, resulted **from** the collapse.
Nate Lewis/Production Line Worker – International Nutrition, Inc.: "It was crazy. Yeah, I just turned on my phone, I just turned on my phone, to see where I could get any visibility because it was like pitch black in there. All I saw was like the fire, I just thought the building was on fire and everything so I just tried to get to another exit."
An OSHA spokesperson says it likely will be weeks before investigators know the exact cause of the accident.
Bernie Kanger – Interim Chief/Omaha Fire and Rescue Department: "The chance of finding any vicitims that are alive is no longer there."
Unfortunately, Monday's deaths were not the first workplace fatality to occur at the plant.
OSHA records show International Nutrition was assessed more than $13,000 in penalties for a 2002 accident that killed a 45-year-old worker. The employee perished after falling into a moving mixer that he was cleaning.