CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Azteca Milling LP in Edinburg for seven serious safety violations following a February incident when a worker inside a grain silo, attempting to move clumped corn byproducts, was engulfed, asphyxiated and then died.
'The tragedy was preventable. The employer should have known that entering grain bins is extremely dangerous and should not be done unless absolutely necessary, and then only when hazard control measures have been properly implemented,' said Michael Rivera, OSHA's area director in Corpus Christi. 'Suffocation can occur very quickly when a worker becomes buried by grain. Moving grain acts like quicksand and can bury a worker in seconds.'
The serious violations include failing to provide an adequate emergency action plan; train workers about entering the grain silo; issue a permit for silo entry; test the atmosphere condition prior to silo entry; provide a body harness or lifelines that limit the worker from sinking further than waist-deep; provide an observer stationed outside of the grain silo for assistance; and provide suitable equipment for rescue operations. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA is working with the grain and agricultural industries and the agricultural community to educate employers and workers about the six major hazards of the grain and feed industry. Through training, decals, brochures, websites and other communication, OSHA will continue to work to improve awareness of these hazards and the safety and health of workers on farms and in grain-handling facilities. OSHA has also published information related to common grain industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use and many other grain-related topics at www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html. OSHA's Grain Bin LEP is used in 25 states. The National Grain Entrapment Prevention Initiative has also developed a flier on grain bin safety at http://grainnet.com/pdf/Grain_Entrapment_Prevention.pdf*.
Proposed penalties total $49,000. The company, which specializes in cutting lumber to size for its customers, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Dallas area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Corpus Christi office at 361-888-3420.
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 ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.