US: Nebraska feed ingredient, grain company faces OSHA fine after fatalities at site

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ fotokostic
© GettyImages/ fotokostic
A grain and feed ingredient management and logistics company faces $507,374 in OSHA fines after employees die in grain bin incident.

Citations​ from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were published Monday against Gavilon Grain LLC regarding a review of a company facility in Kansas. The company also has been placed on OSHA’s severe violator enforcement program.

“Moving grain acts like quicksand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” ​said Kimberly Stille, OSHA regional administrator. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment, and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”

Two facility employees, Joshua Rasbold, 28 and Marcus Tice, 32, died after they were buried in 20 to 25 feed of grain in January, according to information reported at the time of the incident.

The company said that it has contested several of the allegations OSHA made in its citations. Gavilon is set to appear before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“OSHA has cited Gavilon for alleged safety violations related to an incident that occurred at the Gavilon grain elevator in Wichita, Kan. earlier this year,” ​the company said in a statement provided to us. “While we disagree with many of OSHA's allegations, and have formally contested both citations, Gavilon will continue to cooperate fully with OSHA and remains committed to employee safety in all its facilities.”

Gavilon added that it “would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends affected by this incident.”

Safety concerns noted

OSHA noted several safety violations in its report regarding the investigation into the incident at the grain handling facility.

The citations of safety violations included that employees given tasks like bin entry and the use of flammable or toxic substances lacked the training to do so safely, the agency said. “The employer is failing to prevent employee exposure to grain engulfment hazards associated with grain bin entry to include cleaning activities,”​ it added.

“The condition was most recently observed on January 2 at 5755 S Hoover Road, Wichita, Kansas,” ​the agency said. “Employees working in and around bin 1,100 for bin cleaning were provided inadequate training on specific procedures and safety practices applicable to safely conduct their job tasks including but not limited to bin entry, rescue and hazard identification.”

The agency also found that the company exposed employees to risk by not training then adequately on rescue practices, including ways to obtain additional assistance, OSHA said. Employees also were able to enter grain storage facilities when equipment within the bin was still operational, while there was a buildup of grain on the sides or a bridging condition, which could fall and bury them and while they were not wearing specified safety gear.

“The employer is failing to prevent employee exposure to grain engulfment hazards associated with grain bin entry​,” the agency said. “Employees entered into bin 1,100, with approximately 4,000 bushels of soybeans, to break apart a blockage in the drain spout/chute when the conveyor belt below was activated without a grate covering the opening. During the entry, the employees became engulfed/entrapped in the flowing grain created by the running tunnel conveyor belt.”

After entering the grain bin, employees sank more than waist deep into the soybeans, and were without a “non-entry retrieval mechanism,” ​the agency said. Safety equipment also was not immediately accessible to the grain storage location.

The company also reportedly did not protect employees from falling hazards, the agency said. “The employer is failing to prevent employee exposure to fall hazards associated with grain bin entry to include cleaning activities,” ​it added.

“Employees placing the mechanical shovel equipment into bin 1,100 were exposed to fall hazards of up to approximately one hundred feet in that fall protection was not used with the grating was removed from the floor opening,”​ the agency said. Previously, Gavilon has been cited for a similar safety violation at the Wichita facility.

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