When you work around machines, you always have to be careful. Most important, perhaps, is taking the proper precautions to prevent foreseeable injuries. Employers are supposed to identify hazards and take reasonable steps to mitigate those hazards. This is especially important in high-hazard industries.
When employers don’t mitigate the risks, people get hurt. Recently, a 27-year-old man lost part of his right leg in a soybean bin accident. His employer, a farmer-owned grain cooperative based in Monticello, Illinois, failed to take two crucial steps to make sure it was safe for him and his co-workers to clean the bin at the cooperative’s Atlanta, Illinois location.
After investigating the August 2022 accident, OSHA found that the grain cooperative had left three sump holes open and without guardrails. It had also left a paddle conveyer running below the sump holes.
The 27-year-old man and two other employees entered the bin thinking it was safe. Apparently, the man fell through a sump hole and into the paddle conveyer.
Although the man’s injury is severe, OSHA pointed out that it could have been even worse. The cooperative had failed to lockout/tagout the outside leg distributor. That distributor was not tagged out when the workers entered the bin. At any moment, they could have been engulfed by grain and suffocated. Moreover, the cooperative failed to check the bin’s atmosphere before allowing the cleaning workers to enter.
OSHA issued the organization four willful violations and one repeat violation. The cooperative has had similar violations before at another facility. OSHA proposed to fine the cooperative $629,946 for the violations. The cooperative has the right to dispute the violations and fine.
7 critical steps for grain safety
OSHA and an alliance of industry groups have come up with a list of seven critical steps to grain safety:
- Turn off and lock out equipment before anyone enters a bin for cleaning or maintenance.
- Never “walk down” grain – have a person walk on top of the grain – to get it moving.
- Test the air in the bin before anyone enters.
- Use an anchored lifeline and safety harness.
- Station a trained observer outside the bin who can respond to emergencies.
- Never enter a bin where grain is built up on the side.
- Control the accumulation of harmful dust through housekeeping.
Injured workers usually qualify for workers’ compensation
The vast majority of Illinois employees qualify for workers’ comp coverage, including employees without proper immigration papers. You do not have to prove your employer did anything wrong to make a claim. If you were hurt at work, you could receive fully paid medical care and partial payment of any wages you lost.