FREMONT, NEBRASKA, US —  The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Interstate Commodities for fatal grain handling violations.

OSHA has placed Interstate Commodities in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The move comes after an employee was fatally engulfed in a Freemont, Nebraska, US, grain bin in September 2019.

OSHA also has proposed $228,592 in penalties.

“Grain industry employers are legally required to train workers and provide them with appropriate rescue equipment prior to entering a grain bin,” said Matt Thurlby, area director for OSHA’s Omaha department. “Tragedies such as this can be prevented when safety procedures and hazard control measures are implemented.”

OSHA said Interstate Commodities violated grain handling standards by allowing the employee to enter the bin without a harness or lifeline.

OSHA cited the company for seven repeat and 10 serious safety and health violations involving hazards associated with grain handling, falls, respiratory protection, powered industrial trucks and electrical safety.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.

OSHA’s Section 1910.272(g), underscores the seriousness of workers entering a grain bin without safety equipment and/or precautions. According to OSHA, flowing grain can trap a worker in as few as five seconds and engulf them within a minute. More than half of all workers engulfed in grain suffocate, while many others suffer permanent disability.

Interstate Commodities is a Troy, New York, US-based company engaged in the storage and wholesale trade of agricultural commodities.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

OSHA’s Grain Handling webpage provides resources on recognizing and controlling hazards in the grain industry.