Grain Bin Death: “Terrible Preventable Death”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited United Ethanol for 15 health and safety violations for an accident at a Wisconsin ethanol manufacturing plant in which a worker in a grain storage bin died when he became engulfed in corn last April and suffocated.

According to OSHA, the worker entered the grain bin, which contained about 140,000 bushels of corn at the time, and attempted to unclog the floor chute when the corn began to flow, and he became engulfed. OSHA referred to the accident as a “terrible, preventable tragedy that underscores the importance of safety compliance.” They noted that engulfment is one of the six major hazards present in grain bin handling facilities and that it is the employers responsibility to identify hazards, develop proper procedures and make sure workers follow them properly.

Among the citations were one willful violation for failing to lockout conveyors used to empty grain bins, which is part of OSHA’s grain handling regulations. This failure exposed the worker to the engulfment hazard. They also cited the company for five serious violations, including a failure to prevent workers from entering bins when  engulfment hazards exist; a failure guard floor chute openings; a failure to prevent exposure to moving grain hazards; and failure to appoint an observer to control entry and make sure all bin entry requirements had been implemented.

Since 2010, when a record 26 U.S. workers died in grain bin entrapments, OSHA has developed a local emphasis program in 25 states dealing with the problems associated with grain, especially engulfment. This is a serious problem, in part because it only takes a worker five seconds to become engulfed and buried in flowing grain,  which will usually result in suffocation death. There are a number of ways this can happen to a worker, including what happened in this case. The sheer weight and the behavior of the grain make it like quicksand, making it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.

OSHA is taking grain bin safety seriously nationally, but the state of Texas is still behind the curve on the issue, despite the large number of grain bins and silos in the state. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed working in a grain bin, please contact a wrongful death attorney at Hill Law Firm for a consultation as soon as possible, in order to protect your rights.

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