An Omaha, Nebraska-based grain company faces more than half a million dollars in penalties after two workers perished in a grain engulfment accident.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it assessed penalties of more than $507,000 against Gavilon Grain LLC for safety failures that led to the grain engulfment deaths of two workers in Wichita, Kansas, last January.
Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, were working in a Gavilon soybean storage elevator when they fell into the grain and were buried under 25 feet of dried soybeans. It took rescuers two hours to pull the bodies of the two men out of the silo.
In its announcement about the proposed penalties, OSHA said it cited Gavilon Grain for not providing employees lifelines and fall protection, lockout equipment, and rescue equipment; and for allowing employees to enter a bin “in which bridged and/or hung-up grain was present.”
“Moving grain acts like quick sand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille said in the release. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”
Gavilon said it disputes OSHA’s proposed penalties but is cooperating with the agency to make the required safety improvements.
“While we disagree with many of OSHA’s allegations, and have formally contested both citations, Gavilon will continue to cooperate fully with OSHA and remains committed to employee safety in all its facilities,” the company told The Wichita Eagle. “Gavilon would, again, like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends affected by this incident.”
The Wichita Eagle reviewed OSHA records and found “Gavilon has faced 24 cases of safety and health violations over the past seven years.”
The company’s troubled history with safety regulations landed it in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which concentrates the agency’s resources on inspecting companies that have demonstrated indifference to federal safety regulations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.
According to OSHA, five seconds is all it takes for flowing grain to engulf and trap a worker. In one minute’s time, the worker is submerged and in serious danger of death by suffocation. More than half of all workers engulfed in grain die this way. Many others suffer permanent disability.
The density, weight, and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help.