Grain Handling Co-op Fined $303K After Silo Engulfment Incident

Two workers were clearing a grain bin in February when soybeans collapsed and one of them was engulfed up to their waist.

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PIERSON STATION, IL — A central Illinois grain-handling cooperative exposed workers to serious engulfment hazards when soybeans collapsed inside a Pierson Station bin and engulfed an employee up to their waist.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration at Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. found that two workers were clearing the bin of crops and debris when the Feb. 19, 2021, incident occurred. OSHA proposed $303,510 in penalties after identifying three willful, one serious, and one other-than-serious safety citations.    

OSHA found the farmer-owned cooperative violated grain-handling safety standards. The agency issued willful citations for allowing workers to enter the bin without first locking out or de-energizing hazardous equipment, failing to post an attendant outside the bin to respond in case of emergency and allowing employees to enter a grain bin when there was 10-15 feet of grain build-up on the sides of the bin. OSHA also issued a serious citation for directing employees to work on top of railcars without fall protection and one other-than-serious citation for failing to test oxygen levels in a grain bin before directing employees to work inside the bin.

“Six in 10 grain engulfments result in the death of a worker but, like the incident at Topflight Grain Cooperative, they are entirely avoidable,” said OSHA Area Director Barry Salerno in Peoria, Illinois. “OSHA works diligently with the grain and feed industry to enhance education and safety, but employers must follow industry recognized standards to protect their workers.”

Monticello, IL-based Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. operates 19 facilities that process 40 million bushels of grain annually in seven central Illinois counties.     

OSHA’s Grain-Handling Safety Standard focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, struck by objects, combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazard. Learn more about OSHA and agriculture industry safety resources.

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