ATLANTA, ILLINOIS, US — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor has proposed nearly $630,000 in fines against Topflight Grain Cooperative after determining the company violated the agency’s grain handling safety and lockout/tagout regulations that require powered devices be de-energized before workers enter bins.

The fines are related to an accident that occurred Aug. 15, 2022, at Topflight’s grain bin in Atlanta, Illinois, US. According to OSHA, Topflight’s failure to follow safety procedures contributed to a 27-year-old worker suffering a partial amputation of his right leg when a paddle conveyor was left running when he and two other employees entered a soybean bin for cleaning.

OSHA has charged the cooperative with failing to place a guard or cover over the holes leading to the equipment, or utilizing guardrails or travel restraint systems in order to protect the workers from falling into the equipment.

OSHA issued four willful violations and one repeat violation for failing to:

  • protect the three workers from falling into the sump holes.
  • deenergize equipment or use lockout/tagout methods to prevent the conveyer from operating when workers first entered the bin.
  • lockout/tagout the outside leg distributor to prevent grain from entering and engulfing the employees while they worked in the bin.
  • make sure the bin’s atmosphere was tested before the workers entered.

Topflight Grain Cooperative received OSHA citations for similar violations at a different facility in 2021.

“Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. could have prevented this terrible incident and had been warned about the potential hazards of grain bins when OSHA cited the employer for similar hazards at another facility,” said Bill Donovan, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. “Injuries can happen in seconds, but incidents like these can be prevented when employers develop and follow companywide safety procedures each time workers enter grain bins.”

Topflight operates 15 facilities in seven Central Illinois counties with a combined storage capacity of 42.5 million tonnes, according to Sosland Publishing’s 2023 Grain & Milling Annual.

Topflight 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.