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Engulfment Death Prompts $526K OSHA Fine for Feed Company

November 11, 2016

The West Point, NE Prinz Grain & Feed animal feed facility is facing $526,633 in fines proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an investigation into a worker’s death from grain engulfment revealed multiple violations of OSHA grain handling standards, the agency announced Thursday.

On May 18, a 52-year-old maintenance employee was engulfed in a grain bin by “hundreds of pounds” of corn after a “wall of corn” collapsed, according to OSHA. Although rescued by emergency crews, the man died as a result of his injuries two days after the incident. The agency cited Prinz for three willful, 15 serious, and two other-than-serious violations on Nov. 3, also placing the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program that monitors facilities with willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations.

“An ‘engulfment’ often happens when ‘bridged’ grain and vertical piles of stored grain collapse unexpectedly, as in this tragic case. The density, weight, and unpredictable behavior of following grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help. In more than 60% of grain engulfments, workers suffer fatal injuries,” said OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Kim Stille, in a statement. “OSHA urges employers and workers in this hazardous industry to review and implement OSHA’s grain-handling standards to prevent injuries and loss of lives.”

The agency determined that Prinz Grain & Feed failed to:

- Issue confined space permits for entry to grain bins and pits.
- Test atmospheric conditions in grain bins and pits before allowing workers to enter.
- Provide training to employees on confined space entry.
- Implement procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation, known as lockout/tagout.
- Provide rescue equipment suited for bin, silo, or tanks being entered.
- Train workers in grain handling hazards.
- Issue “hot work” permits.
- Examine powered industrial vehicles prior to use.
- Provide protective equipment for the eyes and face.
- Provide training to employees on the hazard communication standard.

According to OSHA’s statistics, 22 grain entrapment cases occurred in 2015, with 4% of cases reported in commercial grain facilities and 82% on farms exempt from OSHA-compliance.

“OSHA has done extensive outreach in the past several years working with leaders, farmers, and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job and prevent those tragedies,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA area director in the Omaha, NE area office. “OSHA is always available to answer questions on how you can protect your workers on the job.”