Nebraska feed mill faces $500K fine after employee death

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Grain, Occupational safety and health

An employee of Prinz Grain and Feed was killed in May this year when he entered a grain bin to clear corn from the sides of an enclosed container, and was engulfed by grain as walls of corn collapsed upon him.

Although Todd Kaup was rescued by emergency crews, he died of injuries received two days later, reported the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an investigation into the workplace incident.

Prinz Grain and Feed has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and given a $526,633 fine after the inquiry. Information on the sets of citations​ or safety violations​ documented was released at the end of last week.

When reached for comment, the company declined to speak to the matter.

“An ‘engulfment’ often happens when ‘bridged’ grain and vertical piles of stored grain collapse unexpectedly, as in this tragic case,” ​said Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. “The density, weight and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help. In more than 60% of grain engulfments, workers suffer fatal injuries. OSHA urges employers and workers in this hazardous industry to review and implement OSHA's grain-handling standards to prevent injuries and loss of lives.”

There have been six deaths from grain engulfment in the US grain handling industry since January 1.

OSHA citations reported

Citations reported by OSHA regarding Prinz Grain and Feed covered several areas including employee training, use of safety equipment, entry permits or lock out procedures and equipment inspection. Other areas included in the 20 violations covered missing records for preventive maintenance, a lack of air quality testing, and blocked doors.

“The employer is failing to ensure that employees who worked at the grain facility were trained at least annually,” ​the agency said. “Employees have been working and doing various tasks, including but not limited to; entering grain bins, hot work, and general maintenance without receiving training on an annual basis.”

The company also was found not to issue permits for “hot work,” ​which could put employees at risk for explosions or fires, the agency said. Employees were allowed to enter grain storage structures without having all “mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment”​ locked out or tagged.

And, employees were at risk of crushing or asphyxiation by grain engulfment as the company did not provide rescue equipment “specifically suited” ​to the grain storage unit being entered, said OSHA. Employees at the facility also entered bins with grain buildup that could bury them.

“Employees entered roll corn bin 1 without a mechanical retrieval system to ensure rescue in the event of entrapment by collapsing grain,”​ the agency said. “The grain collapsed on one of the employees inside of the bin, which resulted in fatal injuries.”

Additionally, employees were not informed about the chemicals present in the work area, the agency said. “Employees are not provided effective information and training o the hazards of chemicals such as but not limited to Bacitracin Methylene Disalicylate 30 Premix, Fermycin 50, Lincomix and Denagard 10 Medicated Premix and the precautions to take to safety handle these products when mixing feed,” ​it added.

What’s next?

The company faces several options for next steps after receiving the citations, said OSHA. It can agree to make the changes noted and pay the fines.

It also can contest the notification of penalty and citation, said the agency. “You may contest all citation items or only individual items,” the agency said. “You may also contest proposed penalties and/or abatement dates without contesting the underlying violations.”

Additionally, the company also has the option to request an informal conference on the matter, said the agency. The informal discussion allows for discussion regarding any abatement steps take and to potentially have an informal settlement agreement.

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