WASHINGTON, DC, US — The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Cedar Head LLC with nine serious safety violations and levied fines totaling $41,303 after an employee became engulfed and suffocated inside a grain silo in April in Colquitt, Georgia, US.

OSHA said its investigation showed the 59-year-old worker entered a half-full bin to unclog clumps of grain as the bin’s auger turned below. As the worker stood atop the grain, the pile shifted, and the worker was quickly engulfed. Another employee onsite rushed over and saw a rope that was tied to the worker disappearing into the grain but could not rescue their co-worker.   

OSHA said the operator could have prevented the fatality by following required grain-handling regulations and cited the company for nine serious violations for exposing employees to engulfment hazards and failing to do the following: 

  • Train workers on how to safely enter a grain bin.
  • Issue a permit and adequately evaluate hazards before employees enter a bin.
  • Require augers and other equipment components to be de-energized and effectively locked out.
  • Keep employees from performing tasks that require them to walk on moving grain inside a bin.
  • Make sure body harnesses and lifelines were adequate to avoid engulfment hazards. 
  • Employ adequate communication methods, including communication with an observer to support workers inside a bin.
  • Provide rescue equipment for employees entering a bin.

“Our investigation found Cedar Head failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have saved this worker’s life,” said Heather Sanders, OSHA acting area director in Savannah, Georgia. “Our outreach and enforcement efforts continually stress the importance of making sure employees are trained and that proper procedures are followed when working inside grain bins to prevent tragedies like this one.”

OSHA investigators also found the company exposed employees to caught-in hazards related to the powered auger system by not following required lockout and tagout procedures to shut down the system and prevent the auger from moving. 

Additionally, Cedar Head failed to test oxygen levels inside the bin to protect workers before they entered. The company received an other-than-serious violation for failing to report the worker’s death to OSHA within eight hours of the incident.

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.