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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [11/23/2009]
Contact Name: Rich Kulczewski or Jeremy Eggers
Phone Number: (303) 844-1302 or x1299
Release Number: 09-1419-DEN

US Department of Labor fines Tempel Grain Elevators LLP of Wiley, Colo., more than $1.6 million following teenage workerís death

DENVER — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division together have fined Tempel Grain Elevators LLP of Wiley, Colo., more than $1.6 million following the May 29 death of a teenage worker at the company's Haswell, Colo., grain storage operation. The youth suffocated after being engulfed by grain in one of the facility bins. 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."

Following its investigation, OSHA proposed $1,592,500 in fines for 22 alleged willful and 13 alleged serious citations. The 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. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

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 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.

The Wage and Hour Division conducted a separate investigation that disclosed 77 child labor violations involving 15 minor employees. These include employing underage workers, allowing teenage employees to work hours prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and allowing them to work in jobs prohibited by the act's occupation standards as well as by the department's hazardous occupations orders. 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.

Violations include employment of a 13-year-old, and having 14- and 15-year-olds work prohibited hours and in prohibited occupations in connection with transportation, storage and warehousing of the grain and power-driven equipment. Employees ranging from 14 to 17 years of age were operating prohibited hazardous equipment, including hoisting apparatus such as skid loaders, front end loaders and forklifts, and riding elevator man lifts. Minors engaged in prohibited activities such as motor vehicle driving and working on or around the roofs of elevators.

The FLSA's youth employment provisions identify 17 hazardous orders that prohibit specific activities for workers under 18, as well as hours restrictions. The law further states that 14 is the minimum age for employment. Employees 14 and 15 years of age may work only in non-manufacturing and non-mining occupations specifically permitted by the secretary of labor. For more information on youth employment laws, visit http://www.youthrules.dol.gov or call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.