From JSOnline.com, Rick Romell, Journal Sentinel, 3 Oct 2011.
A farmer-owned Wisconsin co-operative will pay $550,000 in penalties after being cited by federal regulators for multiple safety violations that the government said placed workers at risk of suffocating in grain storage bins.
The settlement agreement between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Cooperative Plus Inc. also calls for the co-op to increase safety training for employees and resolve safety issues at its grain handling facilities in Whitewater, Burlington, East Troy and Genoa City.
In August 2010, OSHA cited the co-op for 39 safety violations for lacking proper equipment and procedures. Fourteen of the violations were “willful,” which OSHA defines as violations “committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
A Cooperative Plus worker in Burlington was seriously injured in February 2010 when he was engulfed by soybeans, according to OSHA.
Nationwide, at least 26 workers were killed in grain entrapments last year, the highest annual total since data collection began in 1978, Mike Connors, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago, said in a statement.
As part of the settlement agreement, the agency said, Cooperative Plus will hold semiannual drills on rescuing workers trapped in grain bins, and will provide 10 hours of training to employees whose duties expose them to potential hazards.
OSHA said the co-op also will develop a program that includes safe methods for such tasks as inspecting grain and dislodging clumps to empty a bin, and will hire an independent safety consultant.