OSHA Investigates Grain Elevator Accident

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into the death of a man who was killed in a grain elevator accident last week in Kearney, Nebraska.

According to reports, the accident happened last Wednesday, March 16, at around 1:30 p.m. at a grain storage facility located just south of Prosser in Adams County. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office later identified the victim as 41-year-old Jason Weston. According to initial reports, Weston had been removing grain from the bin when he was hit by an auger. Emergency personnel were called, but Weston was pronounced dead at the scene.

The grain elevator is owned and operated by Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI), a company that owns and operates at least 40 grain-handling facilities throughout the state of Nebraska. According to some sources, CPI has been cited for OSHA violations before, with 11 citations occurring in 2011 alone at various locations in the state. The same grain facility was cited by the agency in 2012 for allowing workers to enter grain bins while augers were operating, which is a practice OSHA deemed “unacceptable and very dangerous” to workers. IN all, for those 12 violations, CPI was fined a total of $72,200.

In their statement announcing the investigation, OSHA pointed out that nearly all grain bin accidents are preventable if their standards are followed. They noted that the standards exist to protect workers and that all employers have an absolute duty and responsibility to make sure everyone knows and follows those standards.

OSHA takes safety at grain facilities seriously. In fact, they have run a local emphasis program in 25 states, including Texas, since 2010, when a record 26 workers  nationwide died in grain bin entrapments. They have been very active in trying to educate all workers as to the risks associated with grain, especially engulfment, but also the problem of large machines and moving parts. Grain bin accidents are potentially very serious, since it only takes someone five seconds to become engulfed and buried in flowing grain,  which usually leads to suffocation death. The weight and the behavior of the grain make it something like quicksand, making it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.

While OSHA is taking the problem of grain bin safety very seriously on a national basis, the state of Texas seems to be lagging on the issue, despite the large number of grain bins and silos here. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed working in a grain bin, please contact the Texas Workplace Injury Lawyer at The Hill Law Firm for a free consultation as soon as possible, so that we can help you protect your rights.

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