Illinois grain handling facility cited for violating federal safety standards

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Westhoff
© GettyImages/Westhoff

Related tags grain handling hazards NGFA Osha safety

Littlejohn Grain Inc, a US-based grain bin operator located in Illinois, is facing repercussions for reportedly violating federal safety standards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the company ​for two violations this year, one that has resulted in proposed penalties of US$115,855.

Established in 1923, Littlejohn Grain is a longstanding member of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois. This year saw it come under scrutiny for a series of apparent safety lapses. In February of this year, a worker was trapped in a grain bin for five hours, prompting OSHA to cite the company with 21 violations. The grain elevator’s operator is contesting those.

An incident in July saw a worker suffer severe leg injuries, ultimately requiring partial leg amputation. OSHA investigators alleged that Littlejohn Grain violated federal safety regulations by failing to de-energize and lock out an auger before allowing the worker to enter the bin. The company also neglected to test the bin for oxygen content, exposing the worker to a fall hazard above dangerous equipment, claimed OSHA.

Federal law mandates that grain operators must turn off and lock out equipment before workers enter a bin to prevent contact with operating augers and the risk of engulfment in moving grain.

OSHA area director, Edward Marshall in Peoria, Illinois, expressed concern, maintaining that: “Twice in less than six months, employees were endangered, one of whom suffered injuries with lifelong consequences. The grain elevator’s operator could have protected its employees by following federal and industry-recommended safety procedures.”

Grain-handling hazards

In 2018, OSHA initiated a regional emphasis program for grain-handling facilities in Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin, following investigations into over two dozen related fatalities in the preceding decade. In addition to enforcement, the agency collaborates with industry stakeholders to raise awareness of grain-handling hazards, partnering with organizations such as the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society, and the National Grain and Feed Association.

Littlejohn Grain Inc has a 15-day window from the receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent OSHA Commission.

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