Corpus Christi Grain Co. Stands Knee-Deep in $258,900 in OSHA Fines

When a Corpus Christi Grain Co. employee was engulfed by grain, he was able to escape with his life. The company, however, now faces $258,900 in proposed OSHA fines for not providing PPE, performing lockout/tagout procedures or having a competent person present with rescue equipment when workers entered grain storage bins.

OSHA cited the Corpus Christi, Texas-based company with six willful and 20 serious violations based on an inspection that was launched after a worker was engulfed while emptying grain from a storage bin. The Corpus Christi Fire Department was able to successfully rescue the trapped worker.

“Employees working in grain storage buildings are exposed to dangerous conditions, and proper safety measures must be taken,” said Michael Rivera, director of OSHA’s Corpus Christi office. “If OSHA’s standards were followed, it is possible this unfortunate incident could have been avoided.”

The willful violations include failing to provide personal protective equipment, such as a body harness and life line, for employees working with stored grain; perform lockout/tagout procedures for the energy sources of equipment, such as augers and conveyors, while workers are inside the grain bins; and have a competent attendant present with rescue equipment when workers enter grain storage bins.

The serious violations include failing to ensure that employees are trained on the hazards associated with grain handling, cover openings with grates in grain bins, ensure that workroom floors are clear of combustible dust and provide a preventive maintenance schedule for machinery.

Corpus Christi Grain employs about 25 workers. The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Corpus Christi or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

An employee who answered the phone at Corpus Christi Grain told EHS Today that the company could not offer any comments at this time.

In August, OSHA issued a grain handling safety hazard alert for employers and workers that outlines the risks and hazards involved with grain handling. In addition, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels sent notification letters in August 2010 and in February 2011 to more than 13,000 grain elevator operators warning them of proper safety precautions. These include prohibiting entry in grain storage facilities while grain is being emptied out or flowing in or out of the bin, prohibiting employees from “walking down the grain” and ensuring that employees enter the bin with the proper safety equipment.

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