Over the last year more grain bin workers in the United States have been killed in grain entrapments than at any other time since records were first kept in 1978. Safety violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have also increased regarding the operation of grain facilities across the United States including Wisconsin. Last year 25 workers were killed in grain entrapments.
One grain elevator in Illinois was cited for violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act and safety violations. As a result of the violations two teenagers were killed as they performed hazardous job duties this past summer. One of the teenage workers was a 14-year-old. Generally, the minimum age for performing hazardous job duties under the Fair Labor Standards Act is 18. The other young worker that was killed was 19 years old. The two workers were assigned to “walk down the corn” in order to make the corn flow through the machinery.
Tragically, the machinery used to move the corn was activated and the two teenage workers became captured in corn 30 feet deep. The corn acted like quicksand, and the teenagers were not able to free themselves. Tragically, the two teenagers suffocated. In response to the accident, the United States Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said it was “unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Had the grain operator followed the Fair Labor Standards Act and workplace safety laws, the accident could have probably been prevented.
For its violations, the grain operator was fined $623,125 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Labor Department. Of that amount, $68,125 comprised the Fair Labor Standard Act violation.
Source: fairwarning.org, “Fines of $1.3 million sought in suffocations of 3 grain bin workers,” Matthew Heller, 1/25/11