Gavilon Grain LLC in Morral, Ohio received citations for 46 safety and health violations following the September 2010 death of a 20-year-old worker who was caught in a discharge auger while cleaning out a grain bin.
"This tragic death could have been prevented had the grain bin owner and operators followed occupational safety standards and learned from the tragedies that have occurred at other grain bins," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Grain elevator owners and operators must implement well-known safety practices to prevent workers from being hurt or killed in a grain bin."
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 the university started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.
The citations – which carry penalties totaling $465,500 -- following inspections at the company’s Morral, West Jefferson and Harpster grain bin facilities.
Gavilon Grain's Morral facility was issued a total of eight safety citations with proposed penalties of $175,000, including two willful citations for failing to lock out the discharge and sweep auger, and to provide an appropriate grain bin entry permit to perform work.
Five serious citations were issued for failing to train employees in safety precautions and bin entry procedures, not having an observer during bin entry, failing to have rescue equipment, failing to test the atmosphere in the space to be entered and failing to have deflagration controls for combustible dust.
One other-than-serious citation was issued for not having combustible dust warning signs in place. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
As a result of violations discovered at the Morral facility, OSHA initiated inspections at the company's West Jefferson and Harpster facilities. The West Jefferson facility was fined $171,000 and cited with a total of 22 health and safety violations, including two repeat safety violations for allowing employees to walk working surfaces without proper guarding in place and failing to safeguard employees from electrical hazards such as broken electrical conduits.
Thirteen serious safety citations were issued for allowing employees to walk working surfaces without ladderway gates and mid-rails, and exposing workers to electrical and machine guarding hazards. Four serious health citations were issued for a lack of safe grain handling and electrical procedures. Three other-than-serious health citations were issued for lack of signage and hazard communication procedures.
The company's facility in Harpster was fined $119,500 and cited with a total of 16 safety violations, including one willful violation for failing to evaluate work spaces to determine if any required confined space entry permits. Fourteen serious citations were issued for failing to implement a confined space program, not having a non-entry retrieval system, a lack of personal protective equipment for employees, a lack of electrical training, a lack of combustible dust controls and failing to train employees in combustible grain dust hazards. One other-than-serious citation was issued for a lack of combustible dust warning signs.
Gavilon Grain LLC, which operates as Peavey Co. in Ohio, is a subsidiary of Omaha, Neb.-based Gavilon Group LLC. Prior to these inspections, Gavilon Group facilities in Nebraska and Delaware were issued citations in 2010 and 2009, respectively, including citations for the grain handling standard.
Since 2009, OSHA has fined grain operators in Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota and Wisconsin following similar preventable fatalities and injuries. In addition to enforcement actions and training, OSHA sent a notification letter in August 2010 to grain elevator operators warning them not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment. "OSHA will not tolerate noncompliance with the Grain Handling Facilities standard," said Michaels in the letter. "We will continue to use our enforcement authority to the fullest extent possible."