Nebraska dairy faces $79K fine following employee death

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

US dairy fined following employee incident ©GettyImages/Mack15
US dairy fined following employee incident ©GettyImages/Mack15

Related tags: Osha, safety

Thiele Dairy is facing a $78,899 from an OSHA investigation prompted by an employee death following an incident in a grain bin.

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited​the Nebraska-based dairy for not developing or using safety and health programs.

OSHA reviewed company practices following a fatal incident in July when an employee was injured while working inside a grain bin at the dairy, the agency reported.

The employee has been identified as Robert Pokorny (52) of Clearwater, Nebraska.

“Mechanical equipment inside grain storage structures present serious hazards that are well-known in this industry,"​ said Matthew Thurlby, OSHA area office acting director. “This employer's failure to follow safety requirements led to a tragedy that could have been prevented.”

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

Citation details

OSHA cited the dairy for eight serious and one other-than-serious safety violation.

The serious violations included that there was no “infirmary, clinic, or hospital”​ near the workplace and intended to be used to provide aid to injured employees, the agency said. There also was not a person adequately trained in first aid.

“The employer is failing to protect employees from the hazards associated with agricultural work at locations not near a hospital and employees are not trained to render first aid,”​ the agency said. 

The dairy also failed to develop or implement an emergency plan or to protect its employees from the hazards linked to grain bin entry, the agency said.

The facility lacked a plan outlining emergency responder reporting procedures, emergency exit routes, who needs to perform which tasks and performing rescue or medical duties.

Also, employees managing tasks including grain bin entry and handling toxic or flammable materials lacked the needed training to act safety, OSHA said.

Employees also were not trained to act as observed for bin entry operations or in rescue and emergency notification methods and no permit was issued to enter the bins, silos or tanks at the facility.

“The employer is failing to protect employees by not providing training to help identify the hazards associated with grain storage bin entries,” ​the agency said. “Employees had entered grain bins to perform clean up tasks and they had not received training to identify and avoid the hazards associated with this activity. During the July 9, 2018 bin entry the sweep auger was operating which resulted in the facility of one employee.”

Equipment that could be a danger to employees was not “disconnected, locked out and tagged,”​ the agency said.

“The employer is failing to ensure employees are protected from amputation and struck-by hazards when conducting grain storage bin entry activities,”​ it added.

“On or about July 5, 2018, three employees entered the North grain storage bin to remove residual corn and the ben had not been made safe for entry,” ​OSHA reported. “On July 9, 2018, an employee entered the South grain storage bin to clean residual corn. During this bin entry, the augers were not de-energized resulting in the employee receiving a fatal laceration.”

In addition, the dairy failed to check atmosphere in bins prior to employee entry and an observer prepared to provide aid was not present, said the agency.

The facility also did not have the correct rescue equipment on site.

The dairy also was cited for failing to report an employee’s death within eight hours of the work-related incident, OSHA reported.

The fatality happened on July 9 and was not reported to the agency until late the following day.

The dairy has 15 working days to respond the citations, OSHA said. The dairy has to abate the noted violations and pay the penalties; request an informal conference; or contest the citation.

“During such an informal conference you may present any evidence of views which you believe would support an adjustment to the citation(s) and/or penalties,”​ the agency added.

Additionally, a copy of the citation and notification of penalty have to be posted at or near the violations noted until they have been addressed, the agency said.

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