Department of Labor Logo OSHA News Release - Region 5

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

March 16, 2016

Wisconsin grain handling facility exposes workers to engulfment dangers
Duffy Grain Inc. faces more than $122K in OSHA penalties

COLUMBUS, Wis. - Two to three seconds, that is how quickly flowing grain can trap a worker in a grain storage bin. Sixty seconds later, hundreds of pounds of grain can submerge and smother them. When it happens, more than half the time workers die by suffocation.

Federal safety investigators found workers faced with this and other dangers at Duffy Grain's Columbus facility when they visited the site in September 2015. They observed workers at risk of being engulfed in grain and entangled by operating augers as they cleaned storage bins.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Madison area office cited the grain handling facility for two willful and six serious safety violations on March 11. OSHA has proposed penalties of $122,500 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"Sending workers into a grain bin with the auger moving is extremely dangerous," said Ann Grevenkamp, OSHA's area director in Madison. "Duffy Grain knows the precautions that needed to be taken to protect its workers, but failed in their responsibility to follow them. Someone's life and well-being should never be the cost of doing business."

The agency opened an investigation at Duffy Grain under the Grain Handling Industry Local Emphasis Program* after receiving a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions. The program focuses on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.

Inspectors found:

  • Moving grain hazards inside bins.
  • The sweep auger and conveyer were operating when employees entered bins.
  • Pulleys on augers and horizontal belts lacked guarding to prevent workers from coming in contact with operating parts.
  • Observers did not monitor worker while they were inside the grain bin nor issue entry permits as required by confined space regulations.
  • Respiratory hazards.
  • Body harnesses with lifelines were not provided when employees entered grain bins.
  • Equipment suitable for grain bin rescue was not available.
  • Atmosphere inside of grain bins for not tested for air quality.

View current citations here*.

It takes only two to three seconds to become helpless in flowing grain. Crusted grain surface. Void. Illustration of grain engulfment hazard.

After at least 26 U.S. workers died in grain bin entrapments in 2010 - the highest number ever recorded - OSHA focused its enforcement efforts on the grain and feed industry's six major danger areas. The agency also published information on common grain industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin-entry techniques, sweep auger use and many other grain-related topics.

Duffy Grain Inc. operates grain elevators in Columbus and Marshall. Established in 1928, the company also includes a trucking company. 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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, 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 Madison area office at 608-441-5388.

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

# # #

Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-6976,
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976,

Release Number: 16-527-CHI

U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.