Grain-Handling Company Faces $531K Penalty After Worker's Death

Workplace safety authorities cited the company for 16 violations.

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ROSELAND, Neb. – A 34-year-old worker’s attempt to clean out a Roseland grain silo, in preparation for fall harvest, turned tragic on Sept. 12, 2022, when corn engulfed and asphyxiated him.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration at CHS Inc. – operating as Agri-Service Center Roseland – found the employer disregarded federal regulations designed to prevent such tragedies and found the worker’s personal protective equipment was not adequate for protection from engulfment hazards. The worker died on-site.

OSHA also determined the company failed to equip the employee with an adequate body harness and lifeline that co-workers could have used to rescue him. Inspectors discovered the company kept a retractable lifeline tripod on-site, a device not designed for side entry onto grain, and had no adequate alternative method available to protect workers in silos.

“The dangers of working inside grain bins are well-known and safety standards have been in place for decades. Despite our continued outreach and enforcement activity in this highly hazardous industry, we continue to see preventable fatalities,” said OSHA Area Director Matthew Thurlby in Omaha, Nebraska. “Agri-Service Center Roseland should know that safety standards and proper training, procedures, and equipment can make the difference between life and death. Expediency should never be put ahead of worker safety.”

OSHA issued citations for 16 violations – two willful and 14 serious – for allowing workers to enter bins with grain build-up, and for failing to develop procedures for entering permit-required confined spaces, ensure emergency services were available, recognize and evaluate hazards and train workers, and implement machine safety procedures to prevent grain bin equipment from running while workers were inside bins.

The agency proposed $531,268 in penalties and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Through its alliance program, OSHA has partnered with the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, Grain Elevator and Processing Society and National Grain and Feed Association to address hazards, reduce risks and improve safety and health management systems to help prevent life-altering injuries and fatalities.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

From March 27-31, 2023, the National Grain and Feed Alliance will participate in its annual Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week with a focus on making small changes for a big impact to improve safety in this high-hazard industry.

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