OSHA has proposed fining an Ohio-based grain company more than $50,000 for operating a mechanical sweep auger while three employees were working in a grain storage bin.
Sabina Farmers Exchange Inc. was investigated after OSHA received complaints that employees were working inside the bin while the auger operated. The company was previously cited for a similar issue in 2011.
OSHA cited the company in this new incident for three repeat violations and six serious violations. The proposed penalties are $50,051. The company was also cited for a repeat violation because employees were exposed to fire hazards for electrical boxes that were not properly maintained.
OSHA discovered violations for the company at facilities in both Sabina and Wilmington, OH. Among the violations OSHA found at the Wilmington facility were that no one was positioned outside the bin to observe the employees inside and maintain communication, and there was no written housekeeping program to prevent grain dust accumulation inside the bin.
OSHA is concerned about the potential for employees to become injured or die because of suffocation from grain in a storage bin.
"A worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain within 60 seconds,” said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati. “More than half of all grain engulfments result in death by suffocation. Allowing workers to move grain while a sweep auger is running can cause the worker to become entangled in this dangerous equipment and submerged in the flowing grain. Grain bin operators have a responsibility to protect their workers by taking the necessary steps to turn off all moving equipment before allowing workers to enter grain bins, if they must."
In the company’s Sabina facility, OSHA found a repeat violation for a lack of guardrails on storage bins and a lack of access to ladder platforms to prevent falls. Serious violations were failing to protect employees from a machine’s moving parts and the use of a damaged electric cord.
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