For the past few weeks, we have been covering the Top Ten OSHA violations and penalties assessed for fiscal year 2010.  Violation of (29 CFR 1910.272), Grain Handling Facilities, was listed as #9 on the top ten highest penalties assessed list.  The following is an article released by OSHA, March 16, 2011, regarding the death of a young worker who lost his life working in a grain bin.  Please note the numerous other violations (in italics) the company received.  These are many of the violations that have been mentioned as we have counted down the list. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a grain company in Morral, Ohio, 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.

Following inspections at the company’s three bin facilities, 46 safety and health violations have been cited, with penalties totaling $465,500.  One location 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. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

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. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.  One other-than-serious citation (one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably wouldn’t cause death or serious harm) was issued for not having combustible dust warning signs in place.

As a result of violations discovered at the first facility, OSHA initiated inspections at the company’s two other facilities.  One 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. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

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 third facility 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.

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’s Region V, which includes Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, initiated a Grain Safety Local Emphasis Program in August 2010, and has since conducted 61 inspections and issued 163 citations to grain operators/facilities. The violations cover hazards associated with grain engulfment, machine guarding, lockout/tagout of dangerous equipment to prevent accidental energization start-up, electricity, falls, employee training and combustible dust hazards.

OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program began in the spring of 2010, and is meant to focus on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe; industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards; exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals; and all per-instance citation enforcement actions. 

If companies do not mind paying fines, it seems they would be disturbed by the loss of life of an employee, and the fact that they are not providing for the safety of their workers.  This is an example of the various violations we have been describing.

Source: OSHA