May 30, 2007
Contact: Rich Kulczewski
Phone: (303) 844-1302
BISMARCK, N.D. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Hubbard Feeds Inc. of Bismarck for unsafe working conditions following a Dec. 5, 2006, accident that injured three employees. Proposed penalties total $144,000.
The employees entered a grain storage bin to break apart bridged grain using hand tools such as iron rods, pick axes, shovels and rope. Within 30 minutes, the bridge collapsed, burying one employee and injuring all three. In a storage bin, moldy or frozen grain can form a hard, thick crust, or bridge, that can conceal a hazardous cavity. If a grain bridge collapses during efforts to dislodge the compressed grain, an employee standing on the crusty surface can be partially or fully submerged.
Citations issued against the company by OSHA's Bismarck Area Office allege two willful and four serious violations of the agency's grain bin entry standards. The willful citations, with proposed penalties of $126,000, were issued for failure to prevent employees from entering grain storage structures where bridged grain products and associated hazards were present, to assign a standby observer and to provide rescue equipment.
The serious violations, with proposed penalties of $18,000, were issued for failure to train employees for bin entry and rescue, to complete and certify bin entry permits, to perform all required atmospheric testing prior to bin entry and to perform lockout/tagout of equipment prior to employees' entry into grain storage structures. Lockout/tagout procedures are designed to protect employees who service or maintain equipment from unexpected release of hazardous energy.
"Hubbard Feeds management allowed employees to enter this bin exposed to hazardous, potentially life-threatening conditions on eight occasions prior to this accident, which demonstrates a blatant and total disregard for the safety of the company's employees," said Bruce Beelman, OSHA's area director in Bismarck.
Recent studies estimate that approximately 15 fatalities related to grain bin storage entry occur annually in the U.S.
A serious violation is defined as one committed where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard. Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its regulations.
Hubbard Feeds Inc. has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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 assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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