Two dead in grain entrapment incident in Wichita

by Arvin Donley
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The Gavilon facility in Wichita has grain storage capacity of 35.1 million bushels, according to Sosland Publishing Company’s 2018 Grain & Milling Annual.
The Gavilon facility in Wichita has grain storage capacity of 35.1 million bushels. 
Photo courtesy of Gavilon
 

WICHITA, KAS. — Two men died on Jan. 2 at the Gavilon grain elevator in Wichita after being buried in 20 to 25 feet of grain. Gavilon confirmed the men were company employees.

It took emergency crews three hours to reach the two men who were found toward the middle of a 120-foot tall concrete silo. The names of the victims have yet to be released.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it is investigating the incident.

“An unfortunate accident occurred this afternoon at the Gavilon grain facility in Wichita that resulted in the fatality of two workers,” Gavilon said. “Immediate family members have been notified. The company’s thoughts and prayers are with the workers’ families and loved ones. Our immediate concern is on caring for the families of the workers, conducting our internal investigation, and cooperating with the appropriate authorities in their investigation of the incident.”

It is the same grain elevator complex where a grain dust explosion occurred in 1998, killing 7 people and injuring 10. The facility at that time was owned by DeBruce Grain, which merged with Gavilon in 2010.

According to a study by Purdue University, in 2016 there were 29 documented grain entrapment cases in the United States, 18 of which were fatal. That was up from 24 cases and 14 fatalities in 2015.

OSHA’s grain handling rule (29 CFR 1910.272) treats silos as confined spaces, requiring workers lowered into a silo to be tethered to an escape system and have an observer watching. The rule also says people should not enter a silo if machinery, such as augers are running.

The Gavilon facility in Wichita has grain storage capacity of 35.1 million bus, according to Sosland Publishing Company’s 2018 Grain & Milling Annual.
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