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Grain silos create dangerous situations for workers

Although grain equipment accidents can happen across the United States, grain producers in the state of Colorado have had previous grain equipment-related fatalities and have received multiple citations due to these types of dangerous situations.

In a recent regional news release, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued one company 21 citations for workplace safety standard violations, and the company has had more than one injured worker and at least one death of an employee. The employee death happened earlier this year in May; the employee perished after he was buried by cotton seeds stored in a silo.

OSHA issued the citations, and according to a regional director, entering a silo is dangerous because it takes only seconds for someone to be buried by its contents. Twenty-six American workers perished due to such accidents last year, he added.

OSHA found the company's silos had not been previously checked for a lack of oxygen and the silo's source of energy was not locked out before employees entered the grain storage facility. Also, employees were not equipped with a lifeline and were not specially trained regarding the dangers of entering the structure. OSHA deemed those to be willful violations, accusing the company of ignoring and being indifferent to requirements to the health and safety of its workers.

Seventeen other citations were issued to the company due to similar violations, including unguarded ladders, openings in the walls and floors, lack of controls for exposure to grain dust, the lack of rescue equipment and training, lacking communication for hazard and respiratory issues and allowing employees to "walk down" the grain.

An OSHA area director said the violations are not due to the company's lack of knowing the safety hazards that accompany the worker's position. He said the death of the employee was due to the company's failure of common sense and disregard for the law. Although it is unknown whether the injured employees or the family of deceased employee plan on suing the company for workers' compensation benefits, it is clear that the employer has violated its duty to provide a safe working environment for its employees.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "US Labor Department's OSHA cites Utica, NY, animal feed processor following worker's fatal engulfment in storage silo," Nov. 15, 2011

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