Safety and OSHA News

Worker suffocated by his own lifeline; OSHA issues $411K in fines

OSHA has cited a grain handling facility after an investigation into the death of an employee in a soybean bin. 

The 41-year-0ld grain elevator superintendent, Jason Weston, at Cooperative Producers Inc.’s Prosser, NE, facility was clearing soybean debris inside a bin when his lifeline tangled in an unguarded and rotating auger. The death occurred on March 16, 2016.

OSHA issued three egregious willful and three serious violations to CPI for a total of $411,540 in fines.

Investigators determined three workers, including Weston, had been standing over the unguarded auger using a pole in an attempt to dislodge soybean debris in a grain bin that contained more than 50,000 bushels of soybeans sloped 12 to 20 feet up its walls.

OSHA used an egregious willful violation to cite CPI three times for the same hazard that all three workers faced. The citation says:

“Prior to bin entry, all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment which presented a danger to employees inside grain storage structures in the grain handling facility were not disconnected, locked out and tagged, blocked off, or otherwise prevented from operating.”

Each egregious willful violation carried the new maximum penalty of $124,709 each.

The three serious violations were for failure to:

  • test atmospheric conditions in grain bins before allowing workers to enter
  • implement procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation (lockout/tagout), and
  • install adequate machine guarding to avoid contact with moving parts.

From 2011 to 2015, OSHA cited CPI six times for violating grain-handling safety standards. CPI operates 29 grain-handling facilities in Nebraska.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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