WESTFIELD, IL ‒ Two weeks before the U.S. Department of Labor issued citations to a Westfield grain company for a worker being entrapped in a grain bin for five hours in February 2023, the company notified the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration that another employee suffered severe leg injuries on July 12, 2023. The employee required a partial leg amputation. OSHA investigators determined Littlejohn Grain Inc. again violated federal safety regulations by not de-energizing and locking out an auger before allowing the worker to enter the bin. Inspectors also learned the company did not test the bin for oxygen content and exposed the worker to a fall hazard above dangerous equipment. Federal law requires grain operators to turn off and lockout equipment before workers enter a bin to avoid contact with operating augers and engulfment in moving grain.“Twice in less than six months, employees were endangered, one of whom suffered injuries with lifelong consequences,” explained OSHA Area Director Edward Marshall in Peoria, Illinois. “The grain elevator’s operator could have protected its employees by following federal and industry-recommended safety procedures.”Littlejohn Grain Inc. received two willful violations and one serious violation and now faces $115,855 in proposed penalties for the July incident. The grain elevator’s operator is contesting the 21 violations cited after the February 2023 entrapment incident. Operating since 1923, the Martinsville-based company serves grain producers in Clark, Edgar and Cumberland counties with facilities in Westfield and Martinsville and a grain elevator in West Union. The company is a member of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois.In 2018, OSHA established a regional emphasis program for grain-handling facilities in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin after investigating more than two dozen related fatalities in the prior decade. In addition to its enforcement efforts, the agency has worked closely with the industry to raise awareness of grain-handling hazards. This work includes OSHA partnerships with the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, Grain Elevator and Processing Society and National Grain and Feed Association. An OSHA alliance with the grain-handling industry has identified seven steps for grain safety: Turn off and lockout equipment before entering a bin or performing maintenance.Never walk down grain to make it flow.Test the air in the bin before entering.Use a safety harness and anchored lifeline.Place a trained observer outside of the bin in case of an emergency.Do not enter a bin where grain is built up on the side. Control the accumulation of grain dust through housekeeping.Littlejohn Grain Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Learn more about OSHA and industry-recognized safety rules for agricultural operations. Learn more about OSHA.
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