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Seed Firm Fined $225K After Worker Loses Leg to Auger

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Red River Commodities received a penalty and agreed to improve workplace safety at the North Dakota facility.

A North Dakota seed production company has committed to changing its safety procedures and training following a worker’s severe and life-altering injury in 2020.

Red River Commodities Inc. signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an investigation into the circumstances of how an employee suffered multiple lacerations and the partial amputation of his leg when caught in an operating grain bin auger on Aug. 20, 2020.

OSHA’s investigation determined the employee had slipped into an operating outfeed auger while clearing sunflower seeds from a grain bin. The agency cited the company with seven willful violations, one repeat violation, four serious and two other-than-serious violations of the agency’s grain handling, confined space, machine safety and electrical safety regulations. Inspectors also found that Red River did not sufficiently train workers to recognize hazards and take proper safety measures.

The agreement requires the company to pay a penalty of $225,000, provide immediate and annual training to employees on grain bin entry procedures and hazards, and revise its permit required confined space and grain bin entry procedures company-wide. The company has already purchased atmospheric testing equipment.

“This tragedy was preventable. Red River Commodities now understands the value of OSHA’s safety requirements and the importance of effective employee training and adherence to safety procedures,” said OSHA Area Director Scott Overson in Bismarck, ND. “Red River officials are now working with OSHA to abate the safety hazards at the Fargo work site and ensure compliance at its facilities nationwide.”

Between 2014 and 2019, OSHA found similar violations in seven of nine previous inspections. While the company paid its penalties, the agreement with OSHA indicates that the worker’s 2020 injury will finally bring about the change necessary to prevent future injuries at the company’s facilities.

A solely owned subsidiary of Amsterdam Commodities N.V. in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Red River Commodities Inc. produces confectionary sunflower, and seeds from other specialty crops such as flax, millet and pumpkin at facilities in North Dakota, Kansas and Texas. The Fargo facility stores, mixes and packages grain products for birdseed.

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