Worker's Suffocation in Confined Space Leads to $120,700 Fine

OSHA has cited Farmers Union Coop Supply Co. of Stanton, Neb., with one alleged willful and nine alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act after a worker suffocated from lack of oxygen in the boot pit of a concrete grain elevator June 19. The proposed fines total $120,700.

The willful citation is proposed for hazards associated with permit-required confined spaces. Specifically, the employer did not evaluate permit-required confined space conditions by testing the atmospheric conditions in the boot pit for oxygen and carbon dioxide levels prior to entry. OSHA issues a willful violation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The serious citations are proposed for the company's failure to adequately address hazards associated with walking and working surfaces, permit-required confined spaces, grain handling facilities, and wiring methods. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which an employer knew or should have known.

"Farmers Union Coop Supply Co. willfully allowed its employees to work in a dangerous environment," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "This tragedy could have been prevented by evaluating permit-required confined space conditions prior to entry."

The company, which buys and sells grain and employs approximately 33 workers at three sites in Nebraska, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Omaha, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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