“The tragic deaths of three people could have been prevented had the grain bin owners and operators followed the occupational safety standards and child labor laws,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “It is unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Haasbach’s and Hillsdale’s disregard for the law and commonsense safety practices has led to devastation for three families.”
At least 25 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 they started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.
“Grain entrapments kill workers. All employers, especially those in high-hazard industries, must prevent workers from being hurt or killed as a result of recognized hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “There is absolutely no excuse for any worker to be killed in this type of incident.”
The fines to both companies total $1,352,125. Haasbach was issued 24 citations with a penalty of $555,000 following an investigation into the deaths of the two young workers, Wyatt Whitebread and Alex Pacas – ages 14 and 19 years old, respectively – at the company’s grain elevator in Mount Carroll. A 20-year-old man also was seriously injured in the July 2010 incident when all three became entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep. At the time of the incident, the workers were “walking down the corn” to make it flow while machinery used for evacuating the grain was running.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division’s separate investigation found that Haasbach violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Child Labor standards for employing anyone less than 18 years of age to perform hazardous jobs prohibited by the act. As a result, the division issued Haasbach $68,125 in civil money penalties. More information on child labor rules and hazardous occupations can be found at http://www.dol.gov/elaws.