$378,000 Proposed Fine for South Dakota Elevator Operator Company for Exposing Workers to Being Engulfed by Grain

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited North Central Farmers Elevator in Ipswich, S.D., with six willful violations for exposing workers to being engulfed by grain. Proposed penalties total $378,000.

"It's fortunate that the North Central Farmers Elevator worker who was engulfed survived - because many don't. Grain entrapments are killing workers. Grain elevator owners and operators must implement well-known safety practices to prevent workers from being hurt or killed in a grain bin," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

At least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain entrapments last year, and the numbers of entrapments are increasing, according to researchers at Purdue University. There were more grain entrapments in 2010 than in any year since Purdue researchers started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.

OSHA's area office in Bismarck began an investigation at the North Central Farmers Elevator facility in October 2010 following an incident in which an employee was engulfed by corn in a grain bin. The alleged violations relate to grain and confined spaces, and address the failure of the employer to ensure that lockout/tagout procedures were followed to prevent accidental energy start-up, complete confined space and grain bin entry permits, perform required atmospheric testing, protect employees from engulfment hazards, provide an entrance observer and prohibit entry into grain bins where bridging conditions exist. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

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