Farmers Cooperative cited by US Labor Department's OSHA for
exposing workers to grain explosion hazard at Wilber, Neb., grain elevator
WILBER, Neb. – Farmers Cooperative has been cited for two safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration at its Wilber grain elevator. The violations include allowing grain bin dust to accumulate on surfaces past the allowable OSHA standards, thus increasing the potential of a grain dust explosion, and a repeat violation for fall hazards involving unguarded ladders. OSHA has proposed fines of $45,500.
"Grain dust explosions and falls are known hazards in the grain handling industry, and exposing workers to these dangers is not acceptable," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "As an employer, Farmers Cooperative has the responsibility to maintain a safe and healthful workplace for all its workers. The lack of commitment to worker safety and health must be corrected."
The repeat safety violation involves a grain elevator having an unguarded access ladder and a gap in the railing on a walkway. Both locations are more than 4 feet above the adjacent floor or ground level and require guarding to protect against falls. OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The same violation was cited in August 2011 at the company's facility in Exeter.
The serious safety violation involves OSHA's grain handling standards for allowing grain dust to accumulate in excess of one-eighth of an inch. Combustible dust explosion is one of six known industry hazards in grain handling. 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 opened the inspection on March 26 under the agency's local emphasis program for grain handling facilities. The program focuses on the grain handling industry's six major hazards, including engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, struck by, combustible dust explosion and electrocution hazards. Nebraska is one of 25 states in which OSHA has implemented the emphasis program. For more information, visit www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html.
Farmers Cooperative is a full-service cooperative with products and services offered in energy, grain, feed and agronomy. The corporate office is in Dorchester, with other facilities in 40 Nebraska and Kansas communities. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and notice of proposed penalties to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. If the company does not file or contest within that period, it must abate the cited conditions within the period ordered in the citations and pay the proposed penalties.
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 Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171.
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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.