US: Columbia Grain International faces $190K OSHA fine following fatality

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/tumsasedgars
© GettyImages/tumsasedgars

Related tags Osha grain bin safety

Columbia Grain International is being fined $191,322 and cited for safety violations regarding feed grain handling, employee training and equipment use following an employee’s death.

The feed and food grain management company was cited ​by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following its investigation into the death of an employee, Kevin Anderson, 58, in July 2019. Anderson was reportedly engulfed in corn at a Columbia Grain International (CGI) LLC storage facility in Arvilla, North Dakota, reported OSHA.

“This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had simply followed well-known safety procedures,”​ said Scott Overson, OSHA Area Director in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Instead, they exposed employees to dangerous hazards that resulted in the loss of life.”

CGI has 15 working days to respond to the citations, take corrective action, contest part or all of the citations or request an informal conference, the agency said. 

The company did not respond by press time.

Safety concerns highlighted

CGI was fined almost $132,600 for exposing employees to “caught-in and engulfment hazards,”​ OSHA said. Employees faced these risks when they entered a grain storage bin to “unclog the sumps” ​while a conveyor was turned on.

“The employer did not prohibit ‘walking down grain’ and similar practices where the employee walks on grain to make it flow within or out from a grain storage structure, or where an employee is on moving grain,”​ the agency said.

OSHA cited the company for several “serious” safety violations including that employees reportedly were not wearing “a body harness with a lifeline, or a boatswain’s chair”​ when entering a grain storage structure and facing an engulfment hazard. The company did not have rescue equipment “specifically suited”​ for the bin being entered.

The safety measures were reportedly lacking “On or about July 3, 2019, and at times prior, for the employees exposed to caught-in and engulfment hazards inside bin 106 while walking on grain up to 10 feet deep while attempting to unclog conveyor sumps,” ​the agency said.

CGI also failed to have an outside observer in communication with an employee entering a grain bin, the agency said. Instead, the attendant reportedly “left the employee unattended inside to open sump gates.”

The attendant outside the grain bin had not been trained in necessary rescue procedures including notification methods, OSHA said. “Grain storage bin 106 was entered for cleaning without rescue equipment in place and/or proper procedures for summoning effective rescue services,”​ the agency added.

OSHA also reported that the company did not protect employees from fall hazards from a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge with a drop of about 7.5 feet or ensure that ladders were used on for intended purposes.

“Employees [were] exposed to fall hazards while climbing on the top of a 6-foot high, A-frame ladder to access bin 106 for a grain bin cleanout operation,”​ the agency said.

CGI reportedly exposed employees to trip hazards from unguarded sump holes and employees faced the risk of being tangled in a working conveyor, the agency said. “Employees [were] exposed to being caught-in a running conveyor when the chute was removed while unclogging sumps on bin 106.”

The company was also cited for two “other-than-serious”​ issues including that employees given “special tasks”​ at the grain handling facility – like handling flammable or toxic substances and bin entry – did not have the necessary training to complete them safely, OSHA said. Employees were not trained in relevant procedures and safety practices related to their tasks.

“On or about July 3, 2019, and at times prior, for the employees exposed to caught-in and engulfment hazards where grain storage bin 106 was entered for cleaning while the conveyor was running, and the wrong infeed conveyor was tagged out,”​ the agency reported.

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