A 37-year-old worker at Agridyne's Pekin facility climbed down into a rail car to clean out corn steep residue and was overcome by dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas. A 29-year-old tank inspector, who attempted to rescue the first worker, succumbed to the gas exposure as well. Neither worker made it out of the car alive.
The OSHA investigation that followed the June 2014 tragedy led to three willful and eight serious safety violations, many involving permit-required confined space safety regulations. OSHA determined that neither victim was equipped with an emergency retrieval system before they entered the car. The primary cause of death of both employees was closed space asphyxiation and hydrogen sulfide intoxication, a byproduct of the residual organic waste contained in the tank. As a result, the liquid animal feed manufacturer has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Permit-required confined spaces put workers in real and immediate danger. Atmospheric conditions must be tested and monitored before workers enter," said Thomas Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria. "The employer must also ensure that safety equipment, such as a retrieval line, is provided to employees and used. This was a terrible incident that was completely preventable."
OSHA also found the company failed to designate trained rescue employees and use a retrieval system attached to the worker to aid in rescue; train workers and place warning signs about hazards that may be encountered in confined spaces; and ensure rail tank cars had been ventilated prior to entry.
OSHA has proposed fines totaling $266,000.
The Springfield-based company employs 47 workers corporate-wide and eight at the Pekin location.