Department of Labor investigation finds grain silo operator failed to provide required safety training, follow proper procedures in deadly engulfment
COLQUITT, GA – A federal investigation into how a 59-year-old worker at a Colquitt grain silo became engulfed and suffocated in April 2023 found the operator could have prevented the fatality by following required grain-handling safety regulations.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned an employee of Cedar Head LLC entered a half-full bin to unclog clumps of grain as the bin’s auger turned below. As they stood atop the grain, the pile shifted and quickly engulfed them. One other worker onsite rushed over and saw a rope that was tied to the worker disappearing into the grain but could not rescue their co-worker.
OSHA cited the company for nine serious violations for exposing employees to engulfment hazards and failing to do the following:
- Train workers on how to safely enter a grain bin.
- Issue a permit and adequately evaluate hazards before employees enter a bin.
- Require augers and other equipment components to be de-energized and effectively locked out.
- Keep employees from performing tasks that require them to walk on moving grain inside a bin.
- Make sure body harnesses and lifelines were adequate to avoid engulfment hazards.
- Employ adequate communication methods, including communication with an observer to support workers inside a bin.
- Provide rescue equipment for employees entering a bin.
“Our investigation found Cedar Head failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have saved this worker’s life,” said OSHA Acting Area Director Heather Sanders in Savannah, Georgia. “Our outreach and enforcement efforts continually stress the importance of making sure employees are trained and that proper procedures are followed when working inside grain bins to prevent tragedies like this one.”
OSHA investigators also found the company exposed employees to caught-in hazards related to the powered auger system by not following required lockout and tagout procedures to shut down the system and prevent the auger from moving. Additionally, Cedar Head failed to test oxygen levels inside the bin to protect workers before they entered. The company received an other-than-serious violation for failing to report the worker’s death to OSHA within eight hours of the incident.
Cedar Head LLC faces $41,303 in proposed penalties for its violations.
Through its alliance programs and outreach, OSHA is working to address hazards, reduce risks and improve safety and health management systems to help prevent life-altering injuries and fatalities. Visit OSHA’s grain handling safety and health website for more information.
Rules and procedures for workers entering grain bins and safety procedures that all workers must follow have been in effect since 1988.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its 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.