The citation report was issued by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and documents 11 serious and two ‘other-than-serious’ violations ranging from confined space hazards, to a lack of training in grain safety, and chemical exposure.
Reviews of Midwest Grain and Barge Company’s Missouri facility were done earlier this spring and the reported violations were published on Monday, according to agency information.
“Grain handling can be a hazardous operation,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St Louis. “The ever-present risks of suffocation, amputation, being crushed, falling or explosion can [be] dangerous and, in worst cases, deadly.
“OSHA’s grain-handling standards address the hazards found in grain bins,” he said. “These common sense safety standards exist to protect workers on the job in this hazardous industry. It’s up to employers to do the right thing and follow them.”
Serious violations found at the facility included exposure to explosive conditions, said OSHA in the report.
“Employees were exposed to fire and/or explosion hazards where dust and flammable or combustible liquid containers were allowed to accumulate in the electrical service room, which was not kept clean and orderly or in a sanitary condition,” the agency said.
Several of the violations also looked at a lack of annual safety training in grain handling and missing safety devices for emergencies, the agency said. “Employees were assigned special tasks in the grain handling facility, such as, but not limited to, grain bin or silo entry and were not provided training to perform these tasks safely,” it added.
“Employees at the grain handling facility entered a bin or silo where a buildup of grain products on the sides, approximately 12 feet high, could have fallen and buried them,” the agency said. However, safety equipment was not provided and observers with tools to offer assistance were not present, it added.
The company did not establish any small spaces that would require a permit to enter, including grain bins or silos, employees were not warned about the dangers presented in these areas and no program accounted for work done in those locations, said OSHA. And, air inside the enclosed spaces was not tested before entry.
“Prior to entry, all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment, such as, but not limited to grain auger, which presented a danger to employees inside grain storage structure in the grain handling facility were not disconnected, locked out and tagged, blocked-off, or otherwise prevented from operating by other equally effective means or methods,” the agency said.
Inspectors also reported fall hazards at the facility as there were areas where raised platforms lacked guardrails and stairs did not meet specifications.
There also were issues with some slip hazards as drainage was not maintained in areas where there were liquid fertilizer leaks, and matting was not always provided, said OSHA. And, there was an uncovered hole in the floor.
Additionality, there were two ‘other-than-serious’ items found during the inspection, said the agency. These include the placement of oxygen cylinders making them a possible explosive hazard and the potential for electrical contact when a breaker slot was not completely closed.
“Employees were exposed to accelerated fire hazards where oxygen cylinders were stored near highly combustible materials, such as, but not limited to, gasoline, oil and grease, and acetylene likely to cause or accelerate fire,” the agency said.
The company has several options for addressing the violations listed in the citation report, said OSHA.
Company officials have a window of time to contest the findings listed in the report along with the set penalties or abatement timelines, said the agency. Or, the company can pay the fine and provide evidence that the issues mentioned has been addressed.
There also is the possibility of scheduling an informal meeting with OSHA to discuss the findings, the agency said. “During such an informal conference you may present any evidence or views which you believe would support an adjustment to the citation(s) and/or penalty(ies),” it added.
Additionally, a copy of citation has to be posted near the location of the violations listed in the report, or in an area where affected employees can view it, said OSHA. The citation has to stay up until the issue is addressed or for at least three working days, depending on which is longer.