Minnesota co-op receives OSHA fine following fatal incident

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

Minn. cooperative faces OSHA fine following employee engulfment © GettyImages/designer491
Minn. cooperative faces OSHA fine following employee engulfment © GettyImages/designer491

Related tags Osha Feed safety

Meadowland Farmer Cooperative faces a $375,000 fine for alleged violations reported following an employee’s engulfment in grain and death.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (MNOSHA) cited​ the Minnesota-based grain, feed and energy cooperative following multiple inspections.

The division investigated the cooperative’s facility in Larnbelion, Minnesota after employee Mark Arkell, 46, died.

The employee was completely submerged in grain and rescue attempts were unsuccessful, reported the Southern Minnesota News at the time of the incident.   

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

In recent years, the state’s Department of Labor and Industry has been reporting an increase in fatal work injuries. Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers were among the group with the largest number of reported fatalities.

In total, there were 101 fatal work-related injuries in 2017, up from the 92 reported the year before, the department reported. However, the results for 2016 also showed an increase from the previous year.

Citation overview and response

The cooperative was cited for not protecting its employees during work with feed grains, MNOSHA said.  

“The employer did not ensure that each employee was protected from falling through a hatchway and chute-floor hole by a guardrail system or a travel restraint system when a work operation necessitated passing material through a hatchway or chute floor hole,”​ the agency said. “On May 18, 2018 employees emptying soybeans from silo 102 were not protected from falling into a chute floor hole in the silo.”

Meadowland was found to allow employees to enter tanks, silos or grain storage bins without certifying that specific precautions had been implemented before they entered, the agency said.

In May, it was found that the cooperative had not completed its permit before employees entered the silo.

The atmosphere with the in the grain bin also was not tested for “combustible gases, vapors, and toxic agents or oxygen content”​ before employees entered, the agency said. “The employer had not tested the atmosphere of silo 102 prior to employees entering the silo to shovel down soybeans,” ​it added.

MNOSHA also reported that Meadowland created an engulfment hazard for employees.

“When entering a grain storage structure from a level at or above the level of stored grain, or when an employee walks or stands on or in stored grain of a depth which poses an engulfment hazard, employees did not wear a body harness with lifeline, or use a boatswain's chair,” ​the agency said. “Employees entered silo 102 with stored grain which posed an engulfment hazard without wearing a body harness with lifeline.”

Additionally, no observer was stationed outside the bin when employees entered the storage facility to move soybeans, MNOSHA said. The grain facility also lacked rescue equipment suited for use in the grain silo.

The company has a 20-day window after receiving the list of alleged violations to file a notice of contest, MNOSHA said. If the citation is not contested, the cooperative has 20 days to abate the violations noted and pay the penalties.

“If due to factors beyond reasonable control, compliance cannot be achieved by the abatement day on the citation, the employer may file a Petition for Modification of Abatement Date (PMA) to obtain an extension of the abatement time period,”​ the agency said. However, the PMA must be received within the 20-day window.

The cooperative also has the ability to contest any or all of the items noted in the citation. A copy of the citation must be posted at or in close proximity to the site of the alleged violations referenced until the issue is addressed, the agency said.  

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