Illinois Grain Co-Op Fined $629K After 27-Year-Old Worker Suffers Partial Amputation

An Illinois grain cooperatives’ failure to make sure they followed required safety procedures contributed to how a 27-year-old worker suffered a partial amputation of his right leg when a paddle conveyor was left running when he and two other employees entered a soybean bin for cleaning.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to the Aug. 15, 2022, injury at Topflight Grain Cooperative in Atlanta, Illinois, and determined the company violated OSHA’s grain-handling safety and lockout/tagout regulations that require powered devices be de-energized before workers enter bins.

OSHA found that the three employees were working over three unguarded holes in the bin which were above the conveyer when the incident occurred. The company failed to place a guard or cover over the holes leading to the equipment, or utilize guardrails or travel restraint systems in order protect the workers from falling into the equipment.

The agency has proposed penalties of $629,946.

OSHA issued four willful violations and one repeat violation for failing:

  • To protect the three workers from falling into the sump holes.
  • To deenergize equipment or use lockout/tagout methods to prevent the conveyer from operating when workers first entered the bin.
  • To lockout/tagout the outside leg distributor to prevent grain from entering and engulfing the employees while they worked in the bin.
  • To make sure the bin’s atmosphere was tested before the workers entered.

Topflight Grain Cooperative received OSHA citations for similar violations at a different facility in 2021.

“Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. could have prevented this terrible incident, and had been warned about the potential hazards of grain bins when OSHA cited the employer for similar hazards at another facility,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “Injuries can happen in seconds but incidents like these can be prevented when employers develop and follow companywide safety procedures each time workers enter grain bins.”

A farmer-owned grain cooperative based in Monticello, Illinois, Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. serves grain producers in Piatt, Macon, Moultrie, Dewitt, Douglas, Champaign and Logan counties. The company annually moves 40 million bushels of grain through its facilities, and its grain sales exceed $240 million. They are members of Illinois’ Grain and Feed Association.

This article was first published in Insurance Journal.

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