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Safety Violations Uncovered at Grain Facilities

Thanks to a recent investigation into working conditions, grain storage employees may find that their on-the-job safety is being taken a little more seriously. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently conducted an inspection of Gavilon Grain LLC’s three grain facilities in the Ohio cities of Morral, Harpster and West Jefferson. Following their investigation, OSHA issued the operator several citations and fines as a result of serious violations of worker safety standards. Sadly, these violations are an all too common occurrence in an industry that has proven to be potentially hazardous and even deadly to workers.

OSHA began their investigation of Gavilon Grain after a worker at the Morral, OH plant was killed on the job. The 20-year old worker, Andrew Nicholas Dill, was mortally injured when caught in a discharge auger while cleaning a grain bin. OSHA subsequently issued the facility eight citations, two of which were classified as “willful”. Willful citations are given for violations which are “committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.” The willful citations were given for failure to lock out the discharge auger and the sweep auger, and for failure to provide an appropriate grain bin entry for the purpose of completing work. Five other citations were classified as “serious”, which are given for “violations that occur 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.” Proposed penalties for these fines totaled $175,000. The seriousness of the violations led to OSHA’s investigation of Gavilon’s plants in West Jefferson and Harpster, OH. Their investigation at these locations resulted in an additional 38 health and safety violation citations and $290,500 in fines.

OSHA reports that in recent years similar violations have been issued to grain operators in Illinois, South Dakota, Colorado and Wisconsin. In a letter to grain operators following the death of two teen workers in a silo in Illinois, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels wrote, “OSHA will not tolerate noncompliance with the Grain Handling Facilities Standard […] We will continue to use our enforcement authority to the fullest extent possible.” But these standards and investigations have not, to date, resulted in a decrease in deaths among workers at grain facilities. Purdue University recently released a study showing a rise in grain entrapments, a common cause of injury in the industry. In 2010, twenty-five workers in the United States were killed as a result of grain entrapments -- the highest number to date recorded by the university.

Thankfully, the recent in-depth investigation of Gavilon’s grain facilities signals a possible crackdown on an industry that sees more than its share of preventable on-the-job hazards. If you suspect safety violations or have been injured at a grain facility, contact a Chicago workers compensation lawyer who can assist you.

About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.

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