Wyatt Whitebread, 14, Alex Pacas, 19, and a third employee were working at the company’s grain elevator in Mount Carroll, Ill., at the time of the July 28, 2010, incident. Machinery used to convey the grain was running while these three employees "walked down the corn" to make it flow. Whitebread and Pacas were entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep and suffocated; the third employee, age 20, was seriously injured.
OSHA cited Haasbach with a total of 25 violations of the agency’s grain standards and originally proposed $555,000 in penalties. Following the agreement reached in this case, which was approved by an administrative law judge of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the company must pay $200,000 in penalties.
In a separate investigation, DOL's Wage and Hour Division found that Haasbach violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Child Labor standards that prohibit employing workers under 18 to perform hazardous jobs. Under the agreement, Haasbach will pay $68,125, the full civil money penalty originally assessed as a result of those violations.
OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels pointed out that this tragedy had a "profound effect" not only on the teens' local community, but also on the nation’s grain industry at large. "We hope that the deaths of these two young men send a profound and unmistakable message throughout the grain industry that loss of life can and must be prevented," he said.
In recent years, OSHA has stepped up its enforcement of grain operators and highlighted grain handling safety as a pressing concern. In August 2010, Michaels sent a letter to grain elevator operators warning them not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training.