Failure to Develop Procedures for Confined Space Entry Leads to $146,000 Fine

A Menomonie, Wisc. company is facing $146,000 in OSHA fines following an November 2002 accident in which an employee died while servicing a grain storage silo at a Boyceville, Wisc. farm.

An OSHA investigation into the fatality revealed that Brave Harvestore Inc., a company that builds and services grain and silage silos, failed to develop and implement a permit-required confined space entry program and did not have procedures and practices for safe entry into confined spaces. OSHA also charged the company with failing to provide adequate training for workers and allowing them to enter confined spaces without appropriate equipment, including respirators, body harness and retrieval lines and testing equipment to evaluate the atmospheric safety inside the silo.

Brave Harvestore employs approximately 25 workers. A major part of their routine service includes replacing "breather bags" inside the silos. The bags prevent air from entering the silo and reacting with stored forage. The low oxygen atmosphere promotes fermentation and prevents spoilage of the feed. Consequently, the low oxygen atmosphere promotes formation of toxic gasses and an oxygen deficient atmosphere.

"Brave Harvestore was fully aware of this deadly hazard, but failed to take the appropriate measures to protect workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "OSHA's first commitment is to protect workers from such tragedies. We stand ready to assist employers of all sizes to make their workplace safe, but we will not hesitate to fully enforce standards when and where it is warranted!"

OSHA inspected brave Harvestore two previous times, the first in 1982 following a fatality and the second as the result of a formal complaint in 1990. Both inspections were related to silo construction rather than servicing.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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