Wisconsin Dairy Cited Following Farmhand's Death in Manure Pit

OSHA has issued citations to Val-O-Mo Farm Inc. in Elmwood, Wis., following an investigation into the death of a migrant farmhand at the location.

The agency opened its inspection in October 2009 after learning from the Dunn County, Wis., sheriff's department of a fatality reportedly due to the immersion drowning of a migrant farmhand who worked and lived at the farm. As a result of that inspection, OSHA cited the farm for six serious violations and one other-than-serious violation of federal workplace safety standards. Proposed penalties total $7,200.

According to OSHA's fatality report, the worker was operating a skid-steer while cleaning out a dairy cattle barn near an outdoor manure slurry pit. The skid-steer and the worker fell off the end of the push-off platform into the manure slurry pit, trapping the worker in the vehicle. According to the report, the worker died of suffocation due to inhalation of manure.

"Our investigation at this farm reinforced the fact that farming is dangerous work and farm owners and operators need to understand, search out and correct the hazards their workers face," said OSHA Area Director Mark Hysell in Eau Claire, Wis.

OSHA's serious citations address the dairy farm's failure to provide a guarding mechanism to prevent power driven machinery from accidentally falling into the earthen manure storage facility, alteration of seat belts on that machinery, lack of adequate training and instruction for operators of the skid-steer machinery, potential amputation issues, and electrical shock hazards.

Val-O-Mo covers approximately 550 acres including a variety of farm buildings such as corn bins, feed storage bunkers, a milking parlor, and multiple barns. This farm had not previously been inspected by OSHA. While many farming operations, particularly those with 10 or fewer employees, are exempt from OSHA regulations, those that have maintained a temporary labor camp within the last 12 months are not exempt and are subject to all OSHA regulations.

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