US: Farmers Cooperative fined by OSHA

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/wlfella
©GettyImages/wlfella
Feed and grain handler faces a $373,911 OSHA fine for safety violations reported during an on-site investigation.

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the citations​ regarding several feed and grain safety areas earlier in the month.

Nebraska-based, Farmers Cooperative, was investigated after reports that a worker was partially entrapped in a grain bin, said OSHA. Agency investigators found that a worker had entered a grain bin to remove clumps of soybeans while the auger was in motion and when clumps of the oilseeds were cleared the employee reportedly lost his footing and was buried up to his chest.

 “It is well known throughout the industry that entering a bin is extremely dangerous, especially while the auger is operating,” ​said Kimberly Stille, OSHA regional administrator in Kansas City. “Entering a storage bin should always be avoided – if at all possible.”

The site was inspected in May, said the agency in a report provided to us on the matter.

Citation specifics

The cooperative was issued a series of citations regarding the investigation done, said OSHA.

Serious violations reported included that the air within the bin was not tested for oxygen content before the employee entered, the agency said. “The employer is failing to ensure employees are protected from the hazard of asphyxiation and/or toxic substances during grain bin entry operations,”​ it added.

Lines of communication also were not always maintained between an observer and employees entering grain storage areas, the agency said. That lack reportedly left employees at risk of being engulfed in a grain or feed ingredient when entering grain bins.

“The employer is failing to ensure rescue equipment suited for the bin was available on site during bin entry operations exposing the employees to the hazards associated with grain bin entry such as but limited to engulfment, asphyxiation, and mechanic hazards,” ​OSHA said. “This was most recently documented 14540 West Railroad Street, Raymond, Nebraska on or about May 4, 2017 when the employer had employees perform a grain bin entry on bin nine without rescue equipment available on site.”

Additionally, the cooperative was cited for not training all employees acting as observers during an entry into an enclosed grain bin, tank or silo in rescue procedures, the agency said. “The employer is failing to ensure employees performing as an observer for grain storage structure entry (grain in) are trained in rescue procedures and methods for obtaining assistance in the event of a bin entry emergency,” ​it added.  

In the reported partial engulfment event, the employer had employees perform a grain bin entry and the group included an untrained observer, the agency said in its report. “The employer is failing to ensure that employees who act as the observer during an entry have been trained on the procedures for bin rescue and the methods available to obtain additional assistance,”​ it added.

Two willful citations reported included that not all equipment which could present a danger inside of a grain storage structure was not “disconnected, locked out and tagged,” ​the agency said. The employer also did not always issue a permit before employees were able to enter storage areas.

“The employer had an employee enter grain bin nine while the under bin auger was running,”​ the agency said. “The employer allowed the employee to enter with the under bin auger running to facilitate the removal of grain (soybeans) from the bin. During the entry, the employee became partially engulfed/entrapped in the flowing grain created by the running auger system.”

The cooperative also faced a repeat safety violation regarding a lack of training offered to employees assigned special tasks in the grain handling facility, reported OSHA. Farmers Cooperative was previously cited for failing to conduct training on ways to avoid engulfment and mechanical hazards for employees who enter grain bins during an inspection of a different facility.

The cooperative has 15 working days to pay the fine, schedule an informal conference related to the citations or formally contest all, or part, of the cited items, the agency said.

The cooperative did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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