Co-op Producer Cited in Soy Bean Bin Death

Prosser, NE – OSHA has cited Cooperative Producers Inc. for three egregious willful and three serious violations following its investigation of the March 16, 2016, death of a 41-year-old elevator superintendent, who  suffocated when his lifeline tangled in an unguarded and rotating auger while he was clearing soybean debris.

A federal investigation into the worker’s death found multiple violations of federal safety standards for grain handling at the Cooperative Producers Inc. Hayland facility in Prosser.

The agency has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

OSHA investigators determined three workers, including the elevator superintendent, had been standing over the unguarded auger using a pole in an attempt to dislodge soybean debris in a grain bin that contained more than 50,000 bushels of soybeans sloped 12 to 20 feet up its walls.

During its investigation, the agency found CPI failed to:

  • Disconnect a subfloor auger before allowing workers to enter.
  • Test atmospheric conditions in grain bins before allowing workers to enter.
  • Implement procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation, a process known as lockout/tagout.
  • Install adequate machine guarding to avoid contact with moving parts.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $411,540.