Alfalfa Processor Cited for Grain Engulfment Hazards, Fugitive Dust

OSHA has cited Loup Valley Alfalfa Inc. of Burwell, Neb., for alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, following a December 2009 inspection of the grain handling facility. The agency has proposed $293,000 in penalties against the company, which primarily produces animal feed for regional livestock facilities and owners.

OSHA's inspection found seven alleged willful, 16 alleged serious, and three alleged other-than-serious violations. The willful violations stem from the company's failure to provide fall protection on open-sided platforms; operation of mechanical equipment, known as augers, while employees worked within the grain bin; failure to test the atmosphere prior to grain bin entry; instructing employees to walk down the grain; lack of a retrieval system for grain bin entries; lack of an attendant during bin entry operations: and fugitive grain dust that exceeded one-eighth inch depth. OSHA issues a willful violation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

"This employer had no business conducting work inside the grain bins without taking protective measures to ensure that its employees were working in a safe environment," said Charles Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo.

The serious violations include deficient guardrail systems; unapproved powered industrial truck modifications; a lack of inspections on mechanical and safety control equipment; energized electric wiring left exposed, in disrepair, and/or inappropriately used; a lack of/or deficient machine guarding; and a failure to label hazardous chemical containers. 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.

Loup Valley Alfalfa has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Omaha, Neb., or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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