OSHA cites Prinz Grain & Feed for safety violations

by Eric Schroeder
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Prinz Grain and Feed West Point Facility
Prinz Grain & Feed facility in West Point, Nebraska, U.S.
WEST POINT, NEBRASKA, U.S. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Nov. 3 cited Prinz Grain & Feed’s facility in West Point, Nebraska, U.S., for three willful, 15 serious and two other-than-serious violations following an investigation into a May 18, 2016, incident in which an employee died. OSHA has proposed penalties of $526,633.

Working to clear crusted corn from the sides of a grain bin, a 52-year-old maintenance employee found himself engulfed in hundreds of pounds of grain, just minutes after the wall of corn collapsed and buried him. The man was rescued by emergency crews, but died of his injuries two days later.

As a result of its findings, the agency has placed Prinz Grain & Feed in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing 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,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. “The density, weight and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help. In more than 60% of grain engulfments, workers suffer fatal injuries. 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.”

During its investigation, OSHA said it found Prinz Grain & Feed failed to:

• Issue confined space permits for entry into 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, a process 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.

A full list of citations may be found here.

Earlier this year, OSHA urged the U.S. grain handling industry to fully implement safety and health programs, including procedures for controlling hazardous energy, safe bin entry and housekeeping to avoid tragedies.

“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 these tragedies,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. “OSHA is always available to answers questions on how you can protect your workers on the job.”

Headquartered in West Point, Prinz Grain & Feed also operates a storage facility in Beemer, Nebraska, U.S.

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 Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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