OSHA Investigation Into Death of Georgia Grain Silo Worker Finds Multiple Safety Violations

OSHA Investigation Into Death of Georgia Grain Silo Worker Finds Multiple Safety Violations
Dale Nething, 86, transfers a load of corn from his truck to a grain silo on his family farm in Ravenna, Ohio, on Oct. 11, 2021. (Dane Rhys/Reuters)
Katabella Roberts

A federal investigation into the death of a worker at a Colquitt, Georgia, grain silo has found the fatality could have been prevented if the operator had followed required grain-handling safety regulations.

The findings followed an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into the death of the 59-year-old worker at the grain silo, operated by Cedar Head LLC, in April.

According to OSHA, the employee, who has not been identified, "entered a half-full bin to unclog clumps of grain as the bin’s auger turned below."

"As they stood atop the grain, the pile shifted and quickly engulfed them. One other worker onsite rushed over and saw a rope that was tied to the worker disappearing into the grain but could not rescue their co-worker," OSHA said.

OSHA has cited Cedar Head LLC for nine serious violations that allegedly exposed employees to engulfment hazards.

"Our investigation found Cedar Head failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have saved this worker’s life," said OSHA Acting Area Director Heather Sanders in Savannah, Georgia, in a press release. "Our outreach and enforcement efforts continually stress the importance of making sure employees are trained and that proper procedures are followed when working inside grain bins to prevent tragedies like this one."

OSHA accused the company of failing to properly train workers on how to safely enter a grain bin, evaluate hazards before employees enter a bin, prevent workers from performing tasks that require them to walk on moving grain inside a bin and ensure body harnesses and lifelines were adequate to prevent employees from being engulfed by the grain.

The company also did not provide rescue equipment for employees entering a bin, or employ "adequate communication methods, including communication with an observer to support workers" who were inside the grain bin, officials said.

More Grain Silo Deaths

Additionally, the company "exposed employees to caught-in hazards related to the powered auger system by not following required lockout and tagout procedures to shut down the system and prevent the auger from moving," OSHA said.

Colquitt-headquartered Cedar Head LLC also failed to report the worker’s death to OSHA within eight hours of the fatal incident occurring, officials said.

Overall, the company was fined more than $40,000 for the violations and has 15 business days to comply.

Cedar Head LLC could not be reached for further comment.

The fine for Cedar Head LLC comes shortly after one person was killed and two others were hospitalized after two grain elevators collapsed in Tynan, Texas, in July.

During that incident, two of the grain elevators reportedly ruptured and collapsed onto two 18-wheeler trucks, killing grain elevator worker Sergio "Jason" Alvarez.

Last year, a 19-year-old South African teenage farm worker was also killed after falling into a grain storage bin at Bare Bones Farms, a Mississippi soybean farm located in Greenwood.

An OSHA investigation into his death also found that the employer had failed to follow federal workplace safety standards and violated safety standards when it did not ensure four workers were wearing full-body harnesses connected to a lifeline when they became engulfed by soybeans inside a storage bin.

The teenager suffocated during the incident.

Bare Bones Farms was fined over $90,000 in penalties by the agency for the violations.

Related Topics