L&I Slams Feed Mill After Fatal Silo Collapse

The state agency's citation includes one willful violation and two serious violations with total penalties of $67,500.

The Washington state Department of Labor & Industries has cited Wilcox Farms Feedmill, Inc., of Roy, Wash., for safety violations after a 60-foot silo collapsed in December 2013. More than 400 tons of corn spilled, killing a worker who was engulfed. Wilcox has been cited for one willful and two serious safety violations, with total penalties of $67,200. L&I's investigation found the company inadequately maintained and managed the silo and did not adequately train employees.

By definition, a serious violation exists when there is a substantial probability that a worker's death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition, and a willful violation means the agency has evidence of "plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule."

The day the silo collapsed, two employees were to discharge corn from the silo. Because the unloading auger was not working that day, they opened a side discharge door to allow corn to flow onto the outer portion of the auger. During that process, the silo collapsed.

"Worker fatalities are tragic and preventable," said Anne Soiza, assistant director of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health. "Our state requires all employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces. We fully expect Wilcox will correct the hazards and practices that haven't been fixed already to ensure their employees are as safe as can be."

L&I's investigation found these four instances where, according to the agency, Wilcox was not following proper procedures:

  • A side discharge system was used to unload corn instead of the manufacturer's standard procedure of withdrawing grain from the vertical center via the auger. The side discharge system was not installed, designed or supplied by an authorized dealer or contractor.
  • The silo was overfilled all the way to the roof and past the maximum fill level of one inch from the top of the vertical walls.
  • The silo had been previously repaired with a patch over a rupture of the wall due to corrosion. The repair was not made with corrugated material and was not done in a way to ensure structural stability. Also, it wasn't assessed by a structural engineer or the silo manufacturer.
  • There were previous occasions during which the company had simultaneously filled the silo while it was being discharged.
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