Grain elevatorsHe walked into the grain storage bin on his own two feet, but left in an ambulance.

A 35-year-old employee of the Beattie Farmers Union Cooperative had to have all the toes on his left foot amputated after his foot became entangled in an auger that was inadvertently turned on while he was cleaning out a bin.

After investigating the Aug. 28, 2014 accident, OSHA determined that the company failed to place locking devices* on augers to prevent them from being turned on while workers were in the bin. For one willful, one repeated and three serious safety and health violations, the agency proposed penalties of $65,900.

Grain handling hazards

"Beattie knows how to protect its workers, but failed to do so," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "Workers in the grain handling industry are regularly exposed to danger-from engulfment to dangerous equipment to potential explosions from grain dust accumulation.”

OSHA's inspection found that Beattie employees were simultaneously cleaning out two steel grain bins in preparation for the fall harvest. The auger for one bin was turned on while the worker who was injured was inside cleaning out grain. The company willfully exposed the worker to caught-in and amputation hazards by failing to prevent the auger's unexpected startup.

The employee has not been able to return to work since the incident.

Cited previouslty for same hazard

Inspectors also noted that drive pulleys on the bucket elevator legs and augers lacked adequate safety mechanisms to prevent workers from coming into contact with operating machinery parts. Beattie was cited for this violation previously at its facility in 2010.

Workers were also exposed to fall hazards because ladder floor openings were not protected with guardrails and hatch covers. Additionally, poor housekeeping practices allowed grain dust to accumulate, exposing workers to explosion hazards. Three serious violations were cited.

The force from such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries and destruction of buildings. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, 718 injuries and numerous extensively damaged industrial facilities.

Six major danger areas

In 2010, following the deaths of at least 26 U.S. workers in grain bin entrapments, the highest number on record, OSHA focused its enforcement effort on the grain and feed industry's six major danger areas. These include engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, struck-by, combustible dust and electrocution hazards. OSHA has also published information related to common grain-industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use and many other grain-related topics.

Based in Beattie, the Beattie Farmers Union Cooperative employs 41 workers at six locations and has annual sales of about $60 million. The Waterville location handles grain, feed, seed, bulk liquid, dry fertilizer and other agricultural products. The company also has locations in Frankfort, Marietta, Blue Rapids and Summerfield.