Colorado

Nov 23, 2009 4:37 PM by Bea Karnes

Arkansas Valley grain elevator slammed with $1.6 million fine

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division have fined Tempel Grain Elevators more than $1.6 million following the May 29 death of a teenage worker at the company's Haswell grain storage operation.

The teen suffocated after being engulfed by grain in one of the facility bins. According to OSHA, the company also exposed three other teenage workers to the cited hazards.

"Tempel Grain ignored long-established standards addressing safety in grain handling facilities. It was well aware of the hazards and knowingly put its young workers in harm's way," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "From safety to wage and hour issues, the company created a hazardous and illegal working environment for its workers. This situation must be addressed swiftly and completely."

OSHA's willful citations include not providing an emergency action plan prior to entering grain bins, failing to train workers in safe bin entry, a lack of grain engulfment protection, failure to shut off and lock out equipment while employees were working inside bins, a lack of rescue equipment, and allowing hazardous accumulations of grain dust that could contribute to fire and explosion.

The serious citations include unguarded conveyors, fall hazards, a lack of first aid supplies and trained medical personnel, incomplete fire extinguisher inspections, using extension cords in place of permanent wiring and failing to inspect electrical equipment. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

The Wage and Hour Division conducted a separate investigation that disclosed 77 child labor violations involving 15 minor employees. These violations carry fines totaling $64,487. The investigation also found 59 workers due a total of $56,285 in back wages for minimum wage and overtime violations of the FLSA.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of all OSHA citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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