Worker Engulfment in Soybean Silo Leads to Citations of Central Illinois Grain Cooperative

Worker Engulfment in Soybean Silo Leads to Citations of Central Illinois Grain Cooperative

Topflight Grain Cooperative faces fines and citations for safety violations.

A grain-handling cooperative in central Illinois exposed workers to serious engulfment hazards when soybeans collapsed and surrounded an employee up to his/her waist. An OSHA investigation at Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. found that two workers were cleaning the bin of crops and debris when the February 19, 2021 incident occurred. OSHA proposed $303,510 in penalties once identifying three willful, one serious and one other-than-serious safety citations.

OSHA found the farmer-owned cooperative violated grain-handling safety standards. According to a press release, the agency issued willful citations for allowing workers to enter the bin without locking it out or de-energizing hazardous equipment, without an attendant outside the bin to respond in case of emergency and allowing employees to enter a grain bin when there was 10-15 feet of grain build-up on the sides of the bin. OSHA issued a serious citation for directing employees to work on top of railcars without fall protection and one other-than-serious citation for failing to test oxygen levels in a grain bin before directing employees to work inside the bin, as well.

“Six in 10 grain engulfments result in the death of a worker but, like the incident at Topflight Grain Cooperative, they are entirely avoidable,” said OSHA Area Director Barry Salerno in Peoria, Illinois. “OSHA works diligently with the grain and feed industry to enhance education and safety, but employers must follow industry recognized standards to protect their workers.”

Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. operates 19 facilities that process 40 million bushels of grain annually in seven central Illinois counties. OSHA’s Grain Handling Safety Standard focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, struck by objects, combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazard.

Collaboration between OSHA, the Grain-Handling Safety Coalition, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society and the National Grain and Feed Association continues to grow as the organizations combine their resources to develop more training, create partnerships with other industry organizations and expand across the entire grain industry spectrum. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent OSHRC. Learn more about agricultural industry safety resources here.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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