Illinois grain handling cooperative faces over $300,000 fine

Firm exposed workers to “serious engulfment hazards” says OSHA

Illinois grain handling cooperative faces over $300,000 fine

A central Illinois grain-handling cooperative is facing proposed penalties of $303,510 after exposed workers to serious engulfment hazards, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The penalties stem from an incident that happened on Feb. 19, when two workers of the Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. were clearing the bin of crops and debris at the Pierson Station worksite.

Soybeans suddenly collapsed inside the bin, engulfing an employee up to their waist. 

“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 Barry Salerno, OSHA area director 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.”

OSHA previously signed an alliance with the Ohio On-Site Consultation Program, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Ohio Agribusiness Association to help train workers on the grain industry’s six major hazards.

OSHA found Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. violated grain-handling safety standards. The agency issued willful citations for allowing workers to enter the bin without first locking out or de-energizing hazardous equipment, failing to post 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 also 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.

Previously, New Jersey contractor Janiec Roofing Inc. of Lodi also faced fines of $600,741 for several safety violations.