Worker dies trying to unclog grain silo in Georgia, feds say. Now company must pay

A worker suffocated in a Georgia grain silo and died after becoming engulfed in grain, federal officials say.

Now, the company that operates the silo, Cedar Head LLC, faces more than $41,000 in fines, according to a recent citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

McClatchy News could not immediately reach Cedar Head LLC for comment.

In April, a 59-year-old worker at a grain silo in Colquitt, Georgia entered a half-full silo to try to unclog it, OSHA said in a Sept. 15 news release.

As the worker stood on top of the grain, the mass shifted below them, and the worker became engulfed, according to the report.

“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,” officials said in the release.

The worker suffocated in the silo, officials said. After a monthslong investigation, OSHA said Cedar Head LLC committed nine serious workplace violations.

The OSHA citation says workers were not properly trained on how to safely enter a bin, the company failed to disable the spinning auger system prior to employees entering the bin, oxygen content was not tested prior to entry, and workers were allowed to walk on the grain, among other violations.

“Our investigation found Cedar Head failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have saved this worker’s life,” OSHA Acting Area Director Heather Sanders said in the release.

“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,” Sanders said.

The steepest penalty at $11,162 came from the company’s failure to make sure workers had a body harness and lifeline of appropriate length to keep them from getting engulfed, the agency says.

Suffocation is a leading cause of death in grain silos, OSHA says.

“Moving grain acts like ‘quicksand’ and can bury a worker in seconds,” according to OSHA’s page on grain handling. “‘Bridged’ grain and vertical piles of stored grain can also collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it. The behavior and weight of the grain make it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.”

Colquitt is about 210 miles southwest of Atlanta.

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