Feed grain trader faces $290k fine after employee deaths

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/mihalec
© GettyImages/mihalec

Related tags: Osha, grain bin, grain management

The Andersons, Inc. is facing a $291,716 fine for safety violations following an investigation into the deaths of two employees inside a grain storage facility.

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited​the Ohio-based grain management and crop production company on Thursday [January 16] following an investigation into a situation where two company employees were killed.

Joshua Stone, 29, and James Heilman, 56, died after they were engulfed in grain while reportedly removing compacted material inside a company storage facility in South Toledo, Ohio in July, according to information reported by the Toledo Blade.  

“Employers are required to follow safety standards and train their workers on grain storage hazards to prevent tragedies such as this,”​ said Loren Sweatt, principal deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health. “OSHA has free resources available to help employers understand how to comply with safety and health regulations, as well as worker training to recognize hazards and dangerous working conditions.”

The Andersons, Inc. (Andersons) has 15 days after receiving the citations and penalties to request an informal conference, comply or contest the findings.

“The Andersons has cooperated with OSHA throughout its investigation of this incident and will continue to take steps necessary to assure compliance with OSHA’s safety standards,” ​the company said in a statement provided to us.

“We have just received the OSHA citation and cannot comment any further on it at this time,” ​the company said. “Our team is still deeply shaken by this tragedy as our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of these employees.”

Safety finding details

The company was cited for several safety violations according to information from OSHA.

Andersons reportedly did not have or implement an emergency action plan, the agency said. “Employees were exposed to entrapment and engulfment hazards in that the company’s emergency action plan did not identify the procedures to be taken in the event of a grain entrapment or engulfment,”​ the agency added.

The company failed to have equipment including augers or grain transport equipment turned off or blocked off while employees were walking on or standing in stored grain deep enough to present an engulfment hazard, the agency said.

“On or about July 17, 18 and 19, 2019 the employer did not ensure all grain moving equipment was de-energized and disconnected, locked-out, blocked-off, or otherwise prevented from operating by other equally effective means or methods,” ​the agency said. “Employees entering the flat bottom grain storage tank #486 were exposed to entrapment and engulfment hazards, in that all electrical and hydraulic energy sources such as, but not limited to, the infeed basket valve, hydraulic exit gates, and the underground conveyor, were not effectively locked out and prevented from operating.”

Andersons also exposed employees to entrapment and engulfment hazards by allowing them to enter a grain storage facility where “the accumulation of grain on the sides of the tank could fall and engulf the entrants,”​ OSHA reported. “Employees who entered tank #485 were exposed to entrapment and engulfment hazards in that the heel of the grain was at a height of approximately thirty feet,”​ the agency added.

In addition, the company was censured for exposing employees to trip hazards as it reportedly did not protect employees from “tripping into of stepping into or through”​ holes that were less than 4 feet above a lower level, OSHA said.

“The employer did not ensure employees were protected from tripping into or stepping into or through ay hole that is less than 4 feet above a lower level by a cover or guardrail system,” ​the agency said. “Employees entering Tank #485, a flat bottom grain storage structure, were exposed to a fall of approximately four feet through exit gates located on the floor of the tank.”

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