Grain Elevator Issued Proposed Penalties of $115,450 following Suffocation Death

Aug. 15, 2002
An employee taking a safety short cut at a North Dakota grain elevator suffocated on Feb. 7, prompting eight OSHA citations for his employer.

The 40-year-old employee at Chaffee Lynchburg's Farmer's Elevator in Leonard, N.D., entered a corn storage bin to increase the flow of grain being moved by an auger conveyor located beneath the bin. The worker, who became trapped in flowing grain that was approximately 10 feet deep, suffocated after being drawn into the auger conveyor.

OSHA's Bismarck area office issued four willful and four serious citations following an inspection of the Chaffee Lynchburg facility. The employer failed to require employees to follow basic storage bin entry precautions when routinely entering grain storage bins, according to Bruce Beelman, OSHA Bismarck area director. Beelman noted that recent studies estimate that approximately15 fatalities related to grain bin storage entry occur annually in the country.

The four alleged willful violations address the company's failure to issue a permit for entering the bin; test the atmosphere; lock out power to equipment; prohibit the practice of "walking the grain" without protection; and provide for an observer and rescue equipment when employees enter bins, silos or tanks.

The four alleged serious violations address the employer's failure to provide fall protection for working on top of rail cars; guarding machinery; training employees acting as observers for bin entry; and limiting the accumulation of grain dust in the facility.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its regulations. A serious violation is one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Chaffee Lynchburg Farmer's Elevator has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the

OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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