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OSHA Regional News Brief
Region 8

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.



June 21, 2016


OSHA fines grain elevator company for willfully, repeatedly exposing workers
to potentially fatal grain engulfment hazards
Inspection is part of Regional Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities

Employer name: High Country Elevators Inc.

Worksites: 62784 US-491, Dove Creek, CO 81324

Citations issued: June 10, 2016

Investigation findings: The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated High Country Elevators Inc., on March 15, 2016, in Dove Creek as part of the agency's Regional Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities. At the time of the inspection, an employee was inside one of the storage bins alone shoveling sunflower seeds; no protective measures were in place and no other employee was present to stop the elevator in an emergency. OSHA then cited the employer for one willful violation for having an employee working in a storage bin, and not locking-out energized unguarded equipment operating inside the same storage bin. The agency also issued two repeat citations because the employer did not issue a permit to an employee prior to entering a storage bin, a confined space, and the worker was not equipped with a body harness and lifeline. The employer was cited for these same or a similar violation on Aug. 15, 2011.

Additionally, OSHA issued four serious violations to High Country for:

  • Not monitoring the air inside a confined space prior to allowing employees to enter them.
  • Allowing employees to enter confined spaces without being connected to a rescue line, and failure to have a manual backup system or a means to adjust the force and speed of the electric winch used as part of the rescue equipment for employees who enter confined spaces.
  • Not providing an observer outside of the storage bin to provide assistance in the event another employee entered the bin in an emergency.
  • Allowing grain dust to accumulate greater than 1/8 inch.

Suffocation is a leading cause of death in grain storage bins. In 2010, 51 workers were engulfed by grain stored in bins; 26 of them died.

Proposed Penalties: $51,920.

Quote: "Moving grain acts like 'quicksand', can bury a worker in seconds and, in many cases, leads to death by suffocation," said David Nelson, OSHA's Area Director in Englewood, Colorado. "Vertical piles of stored grain can also collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it. These types of incident can be prevented by following some basic rules."

Links to the citations:

Information: High Country Elevators stores and sells a variety of grain and sunflower products. The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Area Director, or contest the citations and penalties 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 Englewood Area Office at 303-843-4500. For more information, visit

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Media Contacts:

Juan J. Rodríguez, 312-353-6976,

Release Number: 16-1190-DEN

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