Silo Present Serious Risk of North Carolina Work Injury this Spring

Our injury lawyers in Charlotte and Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers know that safety is taking a backseat at grain storage facilities. Employers need to be held accountable when workers are injured or killed on the job.

Earlier last month, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) David Michaels, wrote a letter addressing Grain Storage Facility Operators:
“Last July, two teenagers (ages 14 and 19) were killed in a tragic incident involving a grain elevator in Illinois. Both young workers suffocated after being engulfed in a grain bin they had entered to help clear. A third young worker was pulled out of the storage bin alive, and was hospitalized after being trapped for 12 hours.
“Unfortunately, this was not a rare occurrence and this trend is continuing. Researchers at Purdue University documented 51 grain entrapments in 2010 alone,” Michaels noted. “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have found that grain entrapments generally occur because of employer negligence, non-compliance with OSHA standards, and/or poor safety and health practices.”

Key safety steps employers need to take when workers enter storage bins include:

-Shut off and lock out all powered equipment to the bin so that the grain doesn’t move.

-Never let workers ‘walk down grain’ to make it flow.

-All workers need to be secured with a body harness attached to a lifeline, or a boatswains chair, when going into the bin.

-A spotter needs to be used, stationed outside the silo or bin, when a worker is inside.

The spotter must keep an eye on the worker at all times until they are safely out.

Workers should never be inside bins or silos when there is a build-up of grain on the sides that could fall and bury them.

-Bins or silos must have sufficient oxygen prior to entry. Always test for the presence of combustible and toxic gases.

-Whenever a worker enters a bin or silo a permit should be issued, certifying that safety precautions were taken.

Employers have the obligation to protect and train their workers in accordance to OSHA’s Grain Handling Facilities standard.

OSHA in the last 15 months has issued several large fines to grain elevator operators for safety violations that caused death or serious injuries to its workers:

-November 2009 Tempel Grain Elevators LLP Haswell, Colorado fined more than $1.5 million.

-May 2010 South Dakota Wheat Growers Association of Aberdeen, South Dakota was fined more than $1.6 million.

-August 2010 Cooperative Plus, Inc. in Burlington, Wisconsin was fined $721,000.

-January 2011 Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll and Hillsdale Elevator Co. in Geneseo and Annawan, Illinois, were fined $1,284,000.

“If any employee dies in a grain storage facility, in addition to any civil penalties proposed, OSHA will consider referring the incident to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution pursuant to the criminal provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.”

If you or someone you know have been in a serious Carolina accident, contact Lee & Smith injury lawyers in Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

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