Colorado Grain Fatality Brings $1.6 Million in Fines

OSHA issued $1,592,500 of the $1.6 million in fines against Tempel Grain Elevators LLP of Wiley, Colo., in connection with the May 29 engulfment death of a 17-year-old worker.

OSHA and the U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division announced Monday they have fined Tempel Grain Elevators LLP of Wiley, Colo., more than $1.6 million following the May 29, 2009, death of a Cody Clayton Rigsby, 17, when he was engulfed by grain while working at the company’s Haswell, Colo., grain storage operation. The agencies charge that Tempel Grain Elevators also exposed three other teenage workers to the cited hazards.

“Tempel Grain ignored long-established standards addressing safety in grain handling facilities. It was well aware of the hazards and knowingly put its young workers in harm's way,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “From safety to wage and hour issues, the company created a hazardous and illegal working environment for its workers. This situation must be addressed swiftly and completely.”

OSHA issued $1,592,500 in fines for 22 alleged willful and 13 alleged serious citations after investigating the death. The allegedly willful citations include not providing an emergency action plan prior to entering grain bins, failing to train workers in safe bin entry, a lack of grain engulfment protection, failure to shut off and lock out equipment while employees were working inside bins, a lack of rescue equipment, and allowing hazardous accumulations of grain dust that could contribute to fire and explosion. The allegedly serious citations include unguarded conveyors, fall hazards, a lack of first aid supplies and trained medical personnel, incomplete fire extinguisher inspections, using extension cords in place of permanent wiring, and failing to inspect electrical equipment. The company has 15 business days from receipt of all OSHA citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The Wage and Hour Division conducted a separate investigation that disclosed 77 alleged child labor violations involving 15 minor employees. These include employing underage workers, allowing teenage employees to work hours prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and allowing them to work in jobs prohibited by the act and by the department’s hazardous occupations orders. The fines for these alleged violations total $64,487. The investigation also found 59 workers were due a total of $56,285 in back wages for minimum wage and overtime violations of the act.

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