OSHA Buries Grain Bin Operator in Fines for Machine Guarding, Fall Hazards

OSHA's investigation, which began in December 2010, resulted in the issuance of citations 27 serious and three other-than-serious violations.

OSHA has cited Lakeland Feed and Supply in Hamilton, Mont., for exposing workers to grain bin machine guarding and fall hazards, along with other safety and health hazards. Proposed fines total $122,500.

OSHA's investigation, which began in December 2010, resulted in the issuance of citations 27 serious and three other-than-serious violations. The inspection was initiated under OSHA's regional emphasis program that targets grain handling establishments in Montana.

"The hazards associated with grain handling operations are well recognized," said Christine A. Webb, OSHA's area director in Billings. "All employers, and especially those in high hazard industries such as the grain industry, must take the steps necessary to eliminate hazards from the workplace."

The serious violations include platforms missing guarding; no landing platform on a ladder; unguarded shafts, pulleys, chains, and sprockets; the lack of an emergency evacuation plan and no fire alarm system; employees walking on grain in the bins; high levels of potentially explosive dust; the lack of a housekeeping program; not locking out augers when employees enter the bins; exposed live electrical lines; improper electrical wiring for high dust areas; and employees not trained on the hazards and chemicals associated with their work.

The other-than-serious violations include not properly maintaining the OSHA 300 log and 300A form, and failing to install handrails on a stairwell.

Since 2009, OSHA has issued fines exceeding $100,000 per employer to grain operators across the country following preventable fatalities and injuries. In addition to enforcement actions, OSHA sent a notification letter in August 2010 and another in February 2011 to a total of more than 13,000 grain elevator operators warning them of proper safety precautions, including prohibiting entry in grain storage facilities while grain is being emptied out or flowing in or out of the bin, prohibiting employees from "walking down the grain" and ensuring that employees enter the bin with the proper safety equipment.

"OSHA will not tolerate noncompliance with the Grain Handling Facilities standard," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels in both letters. "We will continue to use our enforcement authority to the fullest extent possible." The February letter is available at http://www.osha.gov/asst-sec/Grain-Letter-2-1-2011.html.

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